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Identification of Haemophilus influenzae Serotypes by Standard Slide Agglutination Serotyping and PCR-Based Capsule Typing

American Society for Microbiology
Publication Date
  • Bacteriology
  • Medicine


To resolve discrepancies in slide agglutination serotyping (SAST) results from state health departments and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), we characterized 141 of 751 invasive Haemophilus influenzae isolates that were identified in the United States from January 1998 to December 1999 through an active, laboratory-based, surveillance program coordinated by the CDC. We found discrepancies between the results of SAST performed at state health departments and those of PCR capsule typing performed at the CDC for 56 (40%) of the isolates characterized: 54 isolates that were identified as a particular serotype by SAST were shown to be unencapsulated by PCR, and two isolates that were reported as serotypes b and f were found to be serotypes f and e, respectively, by PCR. The laboratory error most likely to affect the perceived efficacy of the conjugate H. influenzae type b (Hib) vaccine was the misidentification of isolates as serotype b: of 40 isolates identified as serotype b by SAST, 27 (68%) did not contain the correlating capsule type genes. The frequency of errors fell substantially when standardized reagents and routine quality control of SAST were used during a study involving three laboratories. An overall 94% agreement between SAST and PCR results showed that slide agglutination could be a valid and reliable method for serotyping H. influenzae if the test was performed correctly, in accordance with standardized and recommended procedures. An ongoing prospective analysis of all H. influenzae surveillance isolates associated with invasive disease in children less than 5 years old will provide more accurate national figures for the burden of invasive disease caused by Hib and other H. influenzae serotypes.

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