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Optimizing culture methods according to preoperative mNGS results can improve joint infection diagnosis

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Metagenomic next-generation sequencing (mNGS) is useful in the diagnosis of infectious disease. However, while it is highly sensitive at identifying bacteria, it does not provide information on the sensitivity of the organisms to antibiotics. The purpose of this study was to determine whether the results of mNGS can be used to guide optimization of culture methods to improve the sensitivity of culture from intraoperative samples.


Between July 2014 and October 2019, patients with suspected joint infection (JI) from whom synovial fluid (SF) was obtained preoperatively were enrolled. Preoperative aspirated SF was analyzed by conventional microbial culture and mNGS. In addition to samples taken for conventional microbial culture, some samples were taken for intraoperative culture to optimize the culture method according to the preoperative mNGS results. The demographic characteristics, medical history, laboratory examination, mNGS, and culture results of the patients were recorded, and the possibility of the optimized culture methods improving diagnostic efficiency was evaluated.


A total of 56 cases were included in this study. There were 35 cases of JI and 21 cases of non-joint infection (NJI). The sensitivity, specificity, and accuracy of intraoperative microbial culture after optimization of the culture method were 94.29%, 76.19%, and 87.5%, respectively, while those of the conventional microbial culture method were 60%, 80.95%, and 67.86%, respectively.


Preoperative aspirated SF detected via mNGS can provide more aetiological information than preoperative culture, which can guide the optimization and improve the sensitivity of intraoperative culture.

Cite this article: Bone Joint J 2021;103-B(1):39–45.

Correspondence should be sent to Wenming Zhang. E-mail:

X. Fang and Y. Cai contributed equally to this work.

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