Assessment of the clinical utility of plasma metagenomic next-generation sequencing in a pediatric hospital population

Rose A. Lee, Fatima Al Dhaheri, Nira R. Pollock, Tanvi S. Sharma

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52 Citations (Scopus)


Metagenomic next-generation sequencing (mNGS) of plasma cell-free DNA (cfDNA) is commercially available, but its role in the workup of infectious diseases is unclear. To understand the clinical utility of plasma mNGS, we retrospectively reviewed patients tested at a pediatric institution over 2 years to evaluate the clinical relevance of the organism(s) identified and the impact on antimicrobial management. We also investigated the effect of pretest antimicrobials and interpretation of molecules of microbial cfDNA per microliter (MPM) of plasma. Twenty-nine of 59 (49%) mNGS tests detected organism(s), and 28/51 (55%) organisms detected were clinically relevant. The median MPM of clinically relevant organisms was 1,533, versus 221 for irrelevant organisms (P = 0.01). mNGS test positive and negative percent agreements were 53% and 79%, respectively, and 50% of negative mNGS tests were true negatives. Fourteen percent of tests impacted clinical management by changing antimicrobial therapy. Immunocompromised status was the only patient characteristic that trended toward a significant clinical impact (P = 0.056). No patients with culture-negative endocarditis had organisms identified by mNGS. There were no significant differences in antimicrobial duration retest between tests with clinically relevant organism(s) and those that returned negative, nor were the MPMs different between pretreated and untreated organisms, suggesting that 10 days of antimicrobial therapy as observed in this cohort did not sterilize testing; however, no pretreated organisms identified resulted in a new diagnosis impacting clinical management. Plasma mNGS demonstrated higher utility for immunocompromised patients, but given the detection of many clinically irrelevant organisms (45%), cautious interpretation and infectious diseases consultation are prudent.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere00419-20
JournalJournal of Clinical Microbiology
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Clinical utility
  • Diagnostic stewardship
  • MNGS

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology (medical)


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