• Open Access

Comparison of Polymerase Chain Reaction with Bacterial 16s Primers to Blood Culture to Identify Bacteremia in Dogs with Suspected Bacterial Endocarditis


  • Dr Heaney is presently affiliated with the Alpenglow Veterinary Specialty & Emergency Center, 3640 Walnut Street, Boulder, CO 80301. This study was performed at the Washington State College of Veterinary Medicine. Presented in part at the 2009 ACVIM Forum, Montreal, Canada.

Corresponding author: K. M. Meurs, Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences, Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine, Pullman, WA 99164; e-mail: meurs@vetmed.wsu.edu.


Background: Identification of the bacterial organism in dogs with endocarditis is challenging. Human studies have reported the utility of the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to amplify and identify bacterial nucleic acid from infected valvular tissue and blood.

Hypothesis/Objectives: We hypothesized that PCR using primers designed to amplify the bacterial 16s gene would identify circulating bacteria in dogs with suspected bacterial endocarditis more consistently than standard blood culture techniques.

Animals: Eighteen dogs with suspected bacterial endocarditis based upon clinical and echocardiographic findings. Fifteen clinically normal dogs served as negative controls.

Methods: Prospective study of dogs evaluated for suspect endocarditis at 6 veterinary hospitals. A blood sample was drawn from all dogs and evaluated with both a single-sample PCR and standard 3-sample blood culture techniques.

Results: Blood culture identified noncontaminant bacteria in 6/18 study animals (33%) and 1 control dog; PCR identified noncontaminant bacteria in 7/18 study animals (39%). There were no study animals in which the 2 tests identified different bacteria (κ= 1.0). However, bacteria were identified by both techniques in only 2/18 study animals. When results from both PCR and blood culture were considered together, a noncontaminant bacterial organism was identified in 11/18 study animals (61%).

Conclusion and Clinical Importance: The results of this study suggest that although single sample PCR with 16s primers was not more sensitive than blood culture for detection of bacteremia in dogs with suspect endocarditis, performing both techniques simultaneously did increase the likelihood of identification of bacteria in blood.