The role of real-time PCR testing in the investigation of paediatric patients with community-onset osteomyelitis and septic arthritis

  • Sadhbh O’RourkeEmail author
  • Mary Meehan
  • Désirée Bennett
  • Nicola O’Sullivan
  • Robert Cunney
  • Patrick Gavin
  • Roisin McNamara
  • Noelle Cassidy
  • Stephanie Ryan
  • Kathryn Harris
  • Richard Drew
Original Article



Culture yield in osteomyelitis and septic arthritis is low, emphasising the role for molecular techniques.


The purpose of this study was to review the laboratory investigation of childhood osteomyelitis and septic arthritis.


A retrospective review was undertaken in an acute tertiary referral paediatric hospital from January 2010 to December 2016. Cases were only included if they had a positive culture or bacterial PCR result from a bone/joint specimen or blood culture, or had radiographic evidence of osteomyelitis.


Seventy-eight patients met the case definition; 52 (66%) were male. The median age was 4.8 years. Blood cultures were positive in 16 of 56 cases (29%), with 11 deemed clinically significant (Staphylococcus aureus = 8, group A Streptococcus = 3). Thirty-seven of 78 (47%) bone/joint samples were positive by culture with S. aureus (n = 16), coagulase-negative Staphylococcus (n = 9) and group A Streptococcus (n = 4), being the most common organisms. Sixteen culture-negative samples were sent for bacterial PCR, and four were positive (Kingella kingae = 2, Streptococcus pneumoniae = 1, group A Streptococcus = 1).


Sequential culture and PCR testing can improve the detection rate of causative organisms in paediatric bone and joint infections, particularly for fastidious microorganisms such as K. kingae. PCR testing can be reserved for cases where culture is negative after 48 h. These results have been used to develop a standardised diagnostic test panel for bone and joint infections at our institution.


Osteomyelitis Paediatric Polymerase chain reaction Septic arthritis 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

This study was approved by the TSCUH Research and Ethics Committee as a retrospective review (Reference 16.052). For this type of study, formal consent is not required. This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.


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Copyright information

© Royal Academy of Medicine in Ireland 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sadhbh O’Rourke
    • 1
    Email author
  • Mary Meehan
    • 2
  • Désirée Bennett
    • 2
  • Nicola O’Sullivan
    • 2
  • Robert Cunney
    • 2
    • 3
  • Patrick Gavin
    • 4
  • Roisin McNamara
    • 5
  • Noelle Cassidy
    • 6
  • Stephanie Ryan
    • 7
  • Kathryn Harris
    • 8
  • Richard Drew
    • 2
    • 9
    • 10
  1. 1.Department of Clinical MicrobiologyTemple Street Children’s University HospitalDublin 1Ireland
  2. 2.Irish Meningitis and Sepsis Reference LaboratoryTemple Street Children’s University HospitalDublin 1Ireland
  3. 3.Health Protection Surveillance CentreDublin 1Ireland
  4. 4.Department of Infectious DiseasesTemple Street Children’s University HospitalDublin 1Ireland
  5. 5.Emergency DepartmentTemple Street Children’s University HospitalDublin 1Ireland
  6. 6.Department of OrthopaedicsTemple Street Children’s University HospitalDublin 1Ireland
  7. 7.Department of RadiologyTemple Street Children’s University HospitalDublin 1Ireland
  8. 8.Department of Microbiology, Virology and Infection Prevention and ControlGreat Ormond Street NHS Foundation TrustLondonUK
  9. 9.Department of Clinical MicrobiologyRoyal College of SurgeonsDublin 2Ireland
  10. 10.Clinical Innovation UnitRotunda HospitalDublin 1Ireland

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