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Direct detection of nasal Staphylococcus aureus carriage via helicase-dependent isothermal amplification and chip hybridization

Georges C Frech, Denton Munns, Robert D Jenison and Brian J Hicke*

Author Affiliations

Great Basin Corporation, 2441 South 3850 West, Salt Lake City, UT, 84120, USA

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BMC Research Notes 2012, 5:430  doi:10.1186/1756-0500-5-430

Published: 11 August 2012



The bacterium Staphylococcus aureus constitutes one of the most important causes of nosocomial infections. One out of every three individuals naturally carries S. aureus in their anterior nares, and nasal carriage is associated with a significantly higher infection rate in hospital settings. Nasal carriage can be either persistent or intermittent, and it is the persistent carriers who, as a group, are at the highest risk of infection and who have the highest nasal S. aureus cell counts. Prophylactic decolonization of S. aureus from patients’ noses is known to reduce the incidence of postsurgical infections, and there is a clear rationale for rapid identification of nasal S. aureus carriers among hospital patients.


A molecular diagnostic assay was developed which is based on helicase-dependent target amplification and amplicon detection by chip hybridization to a chip surface, producing a visible readout. Nasal swabs from 70 subjects were used to compare the molecular assay against culturing on “CHROMagar Staph aureus” agar plates. The overall relative sensitivity was 89%, and the relative specificity was 94%. The sensitivity rose to 100% when excluding low-count subjects (<100 S. aureus colony-forming units per swab).


This molecular assay is much faster than direct culture and has sensitivity that is appropriate for identification of high-count (>100 S. aureus colony-forming units per swab) nasal S. aureus carriers who are at greatest risk for nosocomial infections.

Staphylococcus aureus; Nasal carriage; Molecular diagnostic; Helicase-dependent amplification