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Culture of multiple periprosthetic tissue samples is the current gold standard for microbiological diagnosis of prosthetic joint infections (PJI). Additional diagnostic information may be obtained through culture of sonication fluid from explants. However, current techniques can have relatively low sensitivity, with prior antimicrobial therapy and infection by fastidious organisms influencing results. We assessed if metagenomic sequencing of total DNA extracts obtained direct from sonication fluid can provide an alternative rapid and sensitive tool for diagnosis of PJI. We compared metagenomic sequencing with standard aerobic and anaerobic culture in 97 sonication fluid samples from prosthetic joint and other orthopedic device infections. Reads from Illumina MiSeq sequencing were taxonomically classified using Kraken. Using 50 derivation samples, we determined optimal thresholds for the number and proportion of bacterial reads required to identify an infection and confirmed our findings in 47 independent validation samples. Compared to results from sonication fluid culture, the species-level sensitivity of metagenomic sequencing was 61/69 (88%; 95% confidence interval [CI], 77 to 94%; for derivation samples 35/38 [92%; 95% CI, 79 to 98%]; for validation samples, 26/31 [84%; 95% CI, 66 to 95%]), and genus-level sensitivity was 64/69 (93%; 95% CI, 84 to 98%). Species-level specificity, adjusting for plausible fastidious causes of infection, species found in concurrently obtained tissue samples, and prior antibiotics, was 85/97 (88%; 95% CI, 79 to 93%; for derivation samples, 43/50 [86%; 95% CI, 73 to 94%]; for validation samples, 42/47 [89%; 95% CI, 77 to 96%]). High levels of human DNA contamination were seen despite the use of laboratory methods to remove it. Rigorous laboratory good practice was required to minimize bacterial DNA contamination. We demonstrate that metagenomic sequencing can provide accurate diagnostic information in PJI. Our findings, combined with the increasing availability of portable, random-access sequencing technology, offer the potential to translate metagenomic sequencing into a rapid diagnostic tool in PJI.

Original publication




Journal article


Journal of clinical microbiology

Publication Date





2334 - 2347


Nuffield Department of Clinical Medicine, University of Oxford, John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, United Kingdom


Humans, Prosthesis-Related Infections, Specimen Handling, Molecular Diagnostic Techniques, Bacteriological Techniques, Sensitivity and Specificity, Prostheses and Implants, Sonication, Time Factors, Metagenomics