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Title:
METHOD FOR STREPTOCOCCUS PNEUMONIAE DIAGNOSIS AND SEROTYPING
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2011/048104
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
The present invention relates to a method for detecting a specific serotype of S. pneumoniae in a biological sample obtained from a subject, comprising the following steps: a) extracting S. pneumoniae DNA from the sample; b) incubating the extracted DNA under conditions such as to enable the amplification of at least one serotype specific target region comprised in the Cps gene cluster locus of S. pneumoniae and selected from the group of: SEQ ID No. 98 to 128, related kits.

Inventors:
AZZARI, Chiara (Dipartimento di PediatriaViale Pieraccin, 24 Firenze, I-50139, IT)
MORIONDO, Maria (Dipartimento di PediatriaViale Pieraccin, 24 Firenze, I-50139, IT)
RESTI, Massimo (Dipartimento di PediatriaViale Pieraccin, 24 Firenze, I-50139, IT)
Application Number:
EP2010/065733
Publication Date:
April 28, 2011
Filing Date:
October 19, 2010
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
AZIENDA OSPEDALIERO-UNIVERSITARIA MEYER (Viale Pieraccini 24, Firenze, I-50139, IT)
AZZARI, Chiara (Dipartimento di PediatriaViale Pieraccin, 24 Firenze, I-50139, IT)
MORIONDO, Maria (Dipartimento di PediatriaViale Pieraccin, 24 Firenze, I-50139, IT)
RESTI, Massimo (Dipartimento di PediatriaViale Pieraccin, 24 Firenze, I-50139, IT)
International Classes:
C12Q1/68
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
CAPASSO, Olga et al. (De Simone and Partners S.p.A, Via Vincenzo Bellini 20, Rome, I-00198, IT)
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Claims:
CLAIMS

1. Method for detecting a specific serotype of S. pneumoniae in a sample, comprising the following steps:

a) extracting S. pneumoniae DNA from the sample;

b) incubating the extracted DNA under conditions such as to enable the amplification of at least one serotype specific target region comprised in the Cps gene cluster locus of S. pneumoniae and selected from the group of:

- SEQIDNo.99 for serotype 3;

- SEQ ID No.98 for serotype 1 ;

- SEQIDNo. 100 for serotype 4;

- SEQIDNo. 101 for serotype 5;

- SEQIDNo. 102 for serotype 6A/B;

- SEQIDNo. 103 for serotype 7AF;

- SEQIDNo. 104 for serotype 8;

- SEQIDNo. 105 for serotype 9V/A;

- SEQIDNo. 106 for serotype 10A/B;

- SEQIDNo. 107 for serotype 12A/B/F;

- SEQIDNo. 108 for serotype 14;

- SEQIDNo. 109 for serotype 15;

- SEQIDNo. 110 for serotype 18B/C;

- SEQIDNo. 111 for serotype 19 B/F;

- SEQIDNo. 112 for serotype 19 A;

- SEQIDNo. 113 for serotype 20;

- SEQIDNo. 114 for serotype 22F/A;

- SEQIDNo. 115 for serotype 23F;

- SEQIDNo. 116 for serotype 33 AF;

- SEQIDNo. 117 for serotype 35B ;

- SEQIDNo. 118 for serotype 38 ;

- SEQIDNo. 119 for serotype 16F ;

- SEQIDNo. 120 for serotype 7B/7F ; - SEQ ID No 121 for serotype 35F (47F) ;

- SEQ ID No 122 for serotype 17F ;

- SEQ ID No 123 for serotype 23B ;

- SEQ ID No 124 for serotype 23 A ;

- SEQ ID No 125 for serotype 29 ;

- SEQ ID No 126 for serotype 2 ;

- SEQ ID No 127 for serotype 1 1 ;

- SEQ ID No 128 for serotype 21 ;

or

- SEQ ID No 129 for serotype 24A 24F ;

if present in the sample, and

c) detecting and identifying the amplified product.

2. The method according to claim 1 wherein the steps of amplification and detection occur by RT-PCR.

3. Kit for amplifying and detecting at least one serotype specific target region comprised in the Cps gene cluster locus of S. pneumoniae according to claim 1 comprising:

- at least one set of primer oligonucleotides and at least one probe oligonucleotide able to specifically amplify and detect at least one target region indicated in claim 1 , and

- a positive control.

4. Kit according to claim 3 wherein the set of primer oligonucleotides and the probe oligonucleotide are selected from the group of:

- SEQ ID NO. 4 and 5 as forward and reverse primers and SEQ ID NO. 6 as probe sequence for serotype 3;

- SEQ ID NO. 1 and 2 as forward and reverse primers and SEQ ID NO. 3 as probe sequence for serotype 1 ; - SEQ ID NO. 7 and 8 as forward and reverse primers and SEQ ID NO. 9 as probe sequence for serotype 4;

- SEQ ID NO. 10 and 1 1 as forward and reverse primers and SEQ ID NO. 12 as probe sequence for serotype 5;

- SEQ ID NO. 13 and 14 as forward and reverse primers and SEQ ID NO. 15 as probe sequence for serotype 6A/B;

- SEQ ID NO. 16 and 17 as forward and reverse primers and SEQ ID NO. 18 as probe sequence for serotype 7F;

- SEQ ID NO. 19 and 20 as forward and reverse primers and SEQ ID NO. 21 as probe sequence for serotype 8;

- SEQ ID NO. 22 and 23 as forward and reverse primers and SEQ ID NO. 24 as probe sequence for serotype 9V/A;

- SEQ ID NO. 25 and 26 as forward and reverse primers and SEQ ID NO. 27 as probe sequence for serotype 10AF;

- SEQ ID NO. 28 and 29 as forward and reverse primers and SEQ ID NO. 30 as probe sequence for serotype 12ABF;

- SEQ ID NO. 31 and 32 as forward and reverse primers and SEQ ID NO. 33 as probe sequence for serotype 14;

- SEQ ID NO. 34 and 35 as forward and reverse primers and SEQ ID NO. 36 as probe sequence for serotype 15;

- SEQ ID NO. 37 and 38 as forward and reverse primers and SEQ ID NO. 39 as probe sequence for serotype 18B/C;

- SEQ ID NO. 40 and 41 as forward and reverse primers and SEQ ID NO. 42 as probe sequence for serotype 19A;

- SEQ ID NO. 43 and 44 as forward and reverse primers and SEQ ID NO. 45 as probe sequence for serotype 19 B/F;

- SEQ ID NO. 46 and 47 as forward and reverse primers and SEQ ID NO. 48 as probe sequence for serotype 20;

- SEQ ID NO. 49 and 50 as forward and reverse primers and SEQ ID NO. 51 as probe sequence for serotype 22F/A; - SEQ ID NO. 52 and 53 as forward and reverse primers and SEQ ID NO. 54 as probe sequence for serotype 23F;

- SEQ ID NO. 55 and 56 as forward and reverse primers and SEQ ID NO. 57 as probe sequence for serotype 33 A/F;

- SEQ ID NO. 58 and 59 as forward and reverse primers and SEQ ID NO. 60 as probe sequence for serotype 35B;

- SEQ ID NO. 61 and 62 as forward and reverse primers and SEQ ID NO. 63 as probe sequence for serotype 38;

- SEQ ID NO. 65 and 66 as forward and reverse primers and SEQ ID NO. 67 as probe sequence for serotype 16F;

- SEQ ID NO. 68 and 69 as forward and reverse primers and SEQ ID NO. 70 as probe sequence for serotype 7B/7C;

- SEQ ID NO. 71 and 72 as forward and reverse primers and SEQ ID NO. 73 as probe sequence for serotype 35F (47F);

- SEQ ID NO. 74 and 75 as forward and reverse primers and SEQ ID NO. 76 as probe sequence for serotype 17F;

- SEQ ID NO. 77 and 78 as forward and reverse primers and SEQ ID NO. 79 as probe sequence for serotype 23B;

- SEQ ID NO. 80 and 81 as forward and reverse primers and SEQ ID NO. 82 as probe sequence for serotype 23A;

- SEQ ID NO. 83 and 84 as forward and reverse primer for serotype 29 and SEQ ID NO.

85 as probe sequence for serotype 29;

- SEQ ID NO. 86 and 87 as forward and reverse primers and SEQ ID NO. 88 as probe sequence for serotype 2;

- SEQ ID NO. 89 and 90 as forward and reverse primers and SEQ ID NO. 91 as probe sequence for serotype 11 ;

- SEQ ID NO. 92 and 93 as forward and reverse primers and SEQ ID NO. 94 as probe sequence for serotype 21 ;

- SEQ ID NO. 95 and 96 as forward and reverse primers and SEQ ID NO. 97 as probe sequence for serotype 24A 24F.

5. Kit according to claim 4 wherein the set of primer oligonucleotides and the probe oligonucleotide are selected from the group of: - SEQ ID NO. 4 and 5 as forward and reverse primers and SEQ ID NO. 6 as probe sequence for serotype 3;

- SEQ ID NO. 1 and 2 as forward and reverse primers and SEQ ID NO. 3 as probe sequence for serotype 1 ;

- SEQ ID NO. 7 and 8 as forward and reverse primers and SEQ ID NO. 9 as probe sequence for serotype 4;

- SEQ ID NO. 10 and 1 1 as forward and reverse primers and SEQ ID NO. 12 as probe sequence for serotype 5;

- SEQ ID NO. 13 and 14 as forward and reverse primers and SEQ ID NO. 15 as probe sequence for serotype 6A/B;

- SEQ ID NO. 16 and 17 as forward and reverse primers and SEQ ID NO. 18 as probe sequence for serotype 7F;

- SEQ ID NO. 19 and 20 as forward and reverse primers and SEQ ID NO. 21 as probe sequence for serotype 8;

- SEQ ID NO. 22 and 23 as forward and reverse primers and SEQ ID NO. 24 as probe sequence for serotype 9V/A;

- SEQ ID NO. 31 and 32 as forward and reverse primers and SEQ ID NO. 33 as probe sequence for serotype 14;

- SEQ ID NO. 34 and 35 as forward and reverse primers and SEQ ID NO. 36 as probe sequence for serotype 15;

- SEQ ID NO. 37 and 38 as forward and reverse primers and SEQ ID NO. 39 as probe sequence for serotype 18B/C;

- SEQ ID NO. 40 and 41 as forward and reverse primers and SEQ ID NO. 42 as probe sequence for serotype 19A;

- SEQ ID NO. 43 and 44 as forward and reverse primers and SEQ ID NO. 45 as probe sequence for serotype 19 B/F; - SEQ ID NO. 49 and 50 as forward and reverse primers and SEQ ID NO. 51 as probe sequence for serotype 22F/A;

- SEQ ID NO. 52 and 53 as forward and reverse primers and SEQ ID NO. 54 as probe sequence for serotype 23F.

6. The kit according to any one of claim 4 or 5 wherein the set of primer oligonucleotides and the probe oligonucleotides for different serotypes are grouped in one or more reaction environments.

Description:
Method for Streptococcus Pneumoniae diagnosis and serotyping FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to a method for the typing of multiple Pneumococcal serotypes directly on clinical samples. The method is based on realtime PCR amplification of specific genomic regions by using identified combinations of primer/probe sets.

BACKGROUND ART

At present, what is known about pneumococcal serotype distribution in invasive infections or carriage, is based mostly on cultural isolate typing [24] .

Pneumococcal serogroup and serotype identification is currently performed by using large panels of expensive antisera by capsular swelling reaction [9,10,13]. However, cross-reactions between serotypes can occur and some strains are difficult to serotype or remain non- serotypable [11-14]. At present, capsule thickness is a serious problem in serologic serotyping. Antisera cannot react correctly with capsular structures of certain pneumococcal serotypes such as serotype 3. This problem can be overcome using the method of the present invention since DNA extraction and amplification is not disturbed by capsule thickness. Serotyping of isolates by molecular methods such as multiplex sequential PCR (MS-PCR) has been previously performed [2] and high sensitivity and excellent concordance with standard cultural methods has been demonstrated [2].

However, it is well known that cultures may give false-negative results because of small sample volume, previous antibiotic therapy, or unsatisfactory conditions of transport and storage which can impair the viability of pathogens. In all the cases where culture growth is not obtained, serotyping cannot be performed neither with Quellung reaction nor with molecular methods.

The authors of the present invention previously demonstrated that MS-PCR can be used directly on clinical samples for Streptococcus Pneumoniae serotyping, thus giving results where cultural methods fail [3]. The method disclosed in the application WO 2009/024844 used multiplex sequential PCR directly on clinical sample for the diagnosis and serotyping of Streptococcus pneumoniae. The method has a sensitivity and specificity significantly higher than standard cultural methods known, at that time, as the gold standard for microbiological diagnosis. The present invention aims at further improving the diagnosis and serotyping of Streptococcus pneumoniae infections.

MS-PCR techniques can be further improved using realtime PCR. At present, among molecular methods, realtime PCR has probably the best performance in terms of sensitivity, specificity and rapidity. The use of specific procedures and primer/probes sets makes the test extremely specific and sensitive. Moreover, detection of amplification products during the amplification step itself makes the test the most rapid in molecular biology. As for sensitivity, it has been previously demonstrated in different research fields that realtime PCR sensitivity is higher than that of standard PCR and evaluation on agarose gel [19]. In fact, realtime PCR has been used over a large spectrum of fields in biological research [25-27]. In recent years, molecular techniques have been applied successfully to the identification of infectious agents. The knowledge of DNA R A sequences of most bacteria allow to obtain an etiologic diagnosis and bacterial serotyping [1 , 2] even where standard culture methods fail [3, 4]. The need for viable bacteria as well as technical expertise requirements are serious drawbacks of the culture detection-system. In addiction, autolysis in culture media and antibiotic therapy often performed on an outpatient basis at the beginning of febrile illnesses, make diagnosis and serotyping with culture methods more difficult [4, 5].

Molecular methods, based on DNA detection, do not require viable bacteria so that bacterial detection can be obtained even after starting antimicrobic treatment [4]. For this reason molecular methods have higher sensitivity in reaching an etiologic diagnosis, greatly reduce the proportion of false-negative results and can be used as a better tools to obtain an epidemiologic picture in different areas in the world.

Among the most common bacterial pathogens, Streptococcus Pneumoniae is considered the leading cause of invasive bacterial infections both in children and in elderly people [6]. The organism causes at least 1.6 million deaths each year and is responsible for several invasive infections [7].

Capsular polysaccharide helps to differentiate 91 distinct serotypes of Streptococcus Pneumoniae [8]. Pneumococcal serotyping is currently performed by using capsular swelling (Quellung) reaction, considered the traditional 'gold standard', [9-10]. However, cross- reactions between serotypes can occur and some strains remain non-serotypable [11-14]. At present, strains with a thick capsule such as serotype 3 cannot be easily typed because specific antisera are prevented from reaching specific epitopes on the capsule itself. This problem can be overcome using molecular methods since DNA extraction and amplification is not disturbed by capsule thickness.

Effective vaccines induce specific anti-capsular antibodies [15]. The available vaccine used in pediatric age induces protection against 7 major serotypes and new vaccines against 10 or 13 serotypes will be available in the next future. Individuating serotypes causing invasive infections is extremely important in order to understand pneumococcal epidemiology, plan correct programs of vaccination and evaluate the impact of the existing program. In particular, the correct analysis of serotype distribution is extremely important for decision makers in public health services; in fact it allows conscious decision on vaccine choice for the population in all countries of the world.

On the other hand, molecular typing is an important tool also in studies on pneumococcal carriage. At present, individuation and typing of pneumococci in nasopharyngeal swabs is obtained by a single colony method [16-17]. Presently, using this method only a single serotype per patient can be found and multiple colonization, which is a very frequent condition, cannot be detected [18]. Therefore, there is the need for a method of detection of S. pneumoniae serogroup that has improved sensitivity in respect to current methods and that is cost effective.

The authors of the present invention have previously described that multiplex sequential PCR (MS-PCR) performed directly on clinical samples for pneumococcal serotyping has a sensitivity significantly higher than that of culture [3]. Even though the possibility of pneumococcal serotyping has been greatly improved by MS-PCR methods, serotyping could be further optimized by the use of Realtime-PCR known, at present, as one of the most specific and sensitive molecular method [19-20]. For this reason, the use and the combination of primers/probes obtained from specific genomic regions of Streptococcus pneumoniae, the set up of precise procedures for amplification with RT-PCR and the direct use of clinical samples has led to the identification of an innovative method compared to prior art. DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION The present invention relates to a method in which Realtime PCR is used, directly on clinical samples, for typing multiple Pneumococcal serotypes, known to be the most frequent ones both in children and adults worldwide. The present invention has an improved sensitivity compared to prior art methods for identifying and serotyping Streptococcus Pneumoniae both in blood or otherwise body fluids and in nasopharyngeal swabs, as shown by examples described in the following sections.

The present invention has several advantages: 1) it allows the serotyping of non-viable bacteria, therefore samples which do not yield cultural growth can be serotyped; 2) it is more sensitive than multiplex sequential PCR because it uses realtime PCR amplification instead of endpoint amplification and identification on agarose gels.

Moreover, the technique described in the present invention has also the highest specificity when compared to methods already described in the state of the art:

1) when compared to multiplex sequential PCR, the use of specific and unique primers and probe sets allow the unique identification of a single serotype.

2) Standard PCR techniques are lengthy including the time for completion of the amplification steps, and the time for agarose gel electrophoresis; therefore the individuation of serotype is not possible in less than 4 hour. Moreover, since the MS -PCR techniques include multiple steps, if the serotype is not individuated in the first step, additional amplification/electrophoresis steps (3-4hours/each) may be needed rendering the whole method even more time expensive.

3) Cultural detection of bacterial strains can be sometimes difficult. By contrast, the present method allows the identification of a unique strain in DNA of isolates or bacterial DNA of clinical samples with no error.

3) the present method displays improved sensitivity in respect of molecular methods using RT-PCR based on degenerate primers which do not show good sensitivity and may lead to ambiguous results, as demonstrated by examples described in the following sections (28). The present invention allows the use of clinical samples directly in Realtime PCR for Streptococcus Pneumoniae serotyping. The sample taken from the human body may be any type of human biological tissue. Among these, blood, pleuric liquid and cefalorachidian liquor (CSF) are preferred. In the cases wherein an organ pathology (meningitis, pneumonia with pleuritis) is present, it is preferred that a sample be taken from the seat of infection (CSF or pleuric liquid). When these are not available and for the unlocalised forms (sepsis, bacteriaemia), whole blood is preferred, because the standard regulations for the sampling thereof and the displacement/freezing of the same are well known and practiced in the art, with equipment also known to the skilled in the art.

A further advantage of the method according to the present invention is that a sample of a biological tissue may be used, even if it has been sampled far away or however within a time interval greater than 1 day, while the maximum time for using the samples by culture is within one hour. Samples taken even 8 days earlier are still usable in the method according to the invention. The sample taken may optionally be frozen and defrosted at the time of analysis. Thus, with a method of freezing and defrosting of the sample, the presence and/or the serogroup and/or the serotype of a pathogen may be detected more than 8 days later and for an indefinite time. The only requirement of the method according to the invention is that the nucleic acid of the prokaryote remain intact and extractable and have not hydrolised or decomposed during the wait between the sampling and the beginning of the method.

The biological sample may be taken either in a test tube or absorbed as a spot on blotting paper, the blotting paper sheets being similar to those normally used for the Guthri test at birth, for the screening of hypothyroidism and phenylketonuria. An advantage of this method is that blood may be sampled also from a fingertip by capillary prick. Thus, the sampling may be done also at the patient's place of residence or in the doctor's office, since no sampling of venous blood is required. The sheet used for the spot (which is sterile prior to use), once used, must immediately be put away in a plastic sachet in order to avoid contaminations by environment germs and subsequently sent to the laboratory carrying out the test. In the contest of the method of the present invention, it is preferred to extract and use only DNA because RNA is labile and not preservable for a long time. Any method for extracting DNA from a sample of biological tissue known in the art may be used for the method of the invention. It is preferable to use a group of reagents or kits for extracting DNA comprising K protease, such as e.g. the QIAmp DNA mini kit, by Qiagen, Hilden, Germany. The use of K protease has shown, in comparative studies, a greater capability of retrieving bacterial DNA and said capability results in a greater sensitivity of the test.

The molecular method subject of the present invention can easily be used on stored biological samples, with no limitation of time. Therefore the method is suitable both for prospective and retrospective analysis allowing to give a complete epidemiological picture of invasive pneumococcal disease.

In the following section it is described how the presence of Streptococcus Pneumoniae DNA in biological samples and isolates can be evaluated by molecular methods subject of the present invention, preferably using primers and probes with at least one Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT) or by methods previously described (MS-PCR). In a preferred embodiment, Primers and probes are designed based on CpsA gene (pneumococcal capsular polysaccharide synthesis gene, for serotype 1 the design was based on previously published Cps gene locus of SEQ ID. no. 64, Fig. 3). The example described in the section below shows the improvement obtained by the methods subject of the present invention when compared to methods previously described (MS-PCR).

Nonetheless, when a positive result is obtained in samples considered negative by other methods, such as MS-PCR or culture, it might be speculated that this is due to poor specificity of RT-PCR rather than to improved sensitivity. However amplification in RT-PCR at the same time of two different targets from two unrelated genes of Streptococcus pneumoniae, lytA (known to be extremely sensitive and specific) [21] and CpsA confirms the sample positivity. Realtime PCR in pneumococcal serotyping offers additional chances also in the analysis of pharyngeal carrying. The method subject of the present invention being more sensitive than previously known methods, demonstrate multiple colonization can be found with a frequency that is higher than previously thought with methods known in the art [34].

This aspect has important implications in the study of pneumococcal carriage and serotype replacement. Actually, in carriage studies performed with culture the single colony method is commonly used to determine the serotype by the Quellung reaction. When colonies of multiple morphologies are present, selection by morphology adds some information, but nevertheless both methods underestimate the true rate of multiple carriage [16-18]. Actually, based on the single-colony cultural method, a single serotype per patient can be found and multiple colonization, which is a very frequent condition cannot be revealed [16] . when we are interested in finding all circulating serotypes or when we want to draw conclusions on limited phenomena as initial serotype replacement could be, individuating multiple colonization is mandatory and therefore molecular methods should be used. RT-PCR is a technique known in the art. Reaction amplification is signalled and, possibly, quantified by use of a fluorescent probe which generates a signal simultaneously with the amplification reaction The nucleic acid sequences resulting from the RT-PCR reaction are DNA sequences. The RT-PCR reaction may be carried out with any equipment or reagent known in the art. In a preferred embodiment of said aspect of the invention wherein the presence or absence of at least a pathogen is detected, use is made of primer and hydrolysis probe sequences, among which, e.g., the TaqMan probes may be used in a PCR amplification cycle reaction known as TaqMan reaction. Said TaqMan probe sequence is a fluorescent probe bonded by means of a nucleic acid sequence to a quencher. The nucleic acid sequence is DNA. The TaqMan probe sequence is hydrolised thanks to the polymerisation of Taq-polymerase (through the action of 3'-5' exonuclease of Taq polymerase). As a consequence, the fluorescent hydrolisis probe or TaqMan probe, without interferences from the quencher, emits fluorescence to signal that polymerization has occurred. TaqMan primers and probes used in the present invention may be built according to methods known in the art to build DNA sequences and methods to bind probes or quenchers thereto. In said aspect of the invention, the RT-PCR reaction may detect the presence of one or more sequences, and consequently, if the reagents are adequately selected, one or more pathogen serotypes at the same time. An advantage of the use of said aspect of the invention, which is the RT-PCR to detect the presence of one or more different sequences, is a reduction of times and/or costs to detect whether and which pathogen serotypes is present in the sample. RT-PCR enables the discrimination among said serotypes with the help of one ore more primer couples (the couple being forward primer and reverse primer for a specific sequence), designed to amplify genes or specific sequences. With the presence of a TaqMan probe, the amplification signals the presence in the sample of extracted nucleic acid. If every nucleic acid sequence is uniquely specific for a single pathogen among those mentioned above, the RT-PCR enables the signalling of their presence.

It is therefore an object of the invention a method for detecting a specific serotype of S. pneumoniae in a sample, comprising the following steps:

a) extracting S. pneumoniae DNA from the sample; b) incubating the extracted DNA under conditions such as to enable the amplification of at least one serotype specific target region comprised in the Cps gene cluster locus of S. pneumoniae and selected from the group of:

- SEQ ID No. 99 for serotype 3;

- SEQ ID No. 98 for serotype 1 ;

- SEQ ID No. 100 for serotype 4;

- SEQ ID No. 101 for serotype 5;

- SEQ ID No. 102 for serotype 6A B;

- SEQ ID No. 103 for serotype 7A F;

- SEQ ID No. 104 for serotype 8;

- SEQ ID No. 105 for serotype 9V/A;

- SEQ ID No. 106 for serotype 10A/B;

- SEQ ID No. 107 for serotype 12A/B/F;

- SEQ ID No. 108 for serotype 14;

- SEQ ID No. 109 for serotype 15;

- SEQ ID No. 1 10 for serotype 18B/C;

- SEQ ID No. 11 1 for serotype 19 B/F;

- SEQ ID No. 112 for serotype 19 A;

- SEQ ID No. 1 13 for serotype 20;

- SEQ ID No. 114 for serotype 22F/A;

- SEQ ID No. 115 for serotype 23F;

- SEQ ID No. 116 for serotype 33 A/F ;

- SEQ ID No. 1 17 for serotype 35B ;

- SEQ ID No. 1 18 for serotype 38 ;

- SEQ ID No. 1 19 for serotype 16F ;

- SEQ ID No. 120 for serotype 7B/7F ;

- SEQ ID No. 121 for serotype 35F (47F) ;

- SEQ ID No. 122 for serotype 17F ;

- SEQ ID No. 123 for serotype 23B ;

- SEQ ID No. 124 for serotype 23A ;

- SEQ ID No. 125 for serotype 29 ; - SEQ ID No. 126 for serotype 2 ;

- SEQ ID No. 127 for serotype 1 1 ;

- SEQ ID No. 128 for serotype 21 ;

or

- SEQ ID No. 129 for serotype 24A/24F ;

if present in the sample, and

c) detecting and identifying the amplified product.

In the present invention the sample may be a biological sample, in particular obtained from a subject, it may also be an agricultural, soil, water or any sample.

Preferably the steps of amplification and detection occur by RT-PCR.

It is a further object of the invention a kit for amplifying and detecting at least one serotype specific target region comprised in the Cps gene cluster locus of S. pneumoniae as indicated above comprising:

- at least one set of primer oligonucleotides and at least one probe oligonucleotide able to specifically amplify and detect at least one target region indicated above, and

- a positive control.

The set of primers for the positive control amplification may be obtained from lytA gene and may be selected among the set of SEQ ID 1 and SEQ ID 2, or SEQ ID 7 and SEQ ID 8.

In a preferred embodiment the set of primer oligonucleotides and the probe oligonucleotide are selected from the group of:

- SEQ ID NO. 4 and 5 as forward and reverse primers and SEQ ID NO. 6 as probe sequence for serotype 3;

- SEQ ID NO. 1 and 2 as forward and reverse primers and SEQ ID NO. 3 as probe sequence for serotype 1 ;

- SEQ ID NO. 7 and 8 as forward and reverse primers and SEQ ID NO. 9 as probe sequence for serotype 4;

- SEQ ID NO. 10 and 1 1 as forward and reverse primers and SEQ ID NO. 12 as probe sequence for serotype 5;

- SEQ ID NO. 13 and 14 as forward and reverse primers and SEQ ID NO. 15 as probe sequence for serotype 6A B; - SEQ ID NO. 16 and 17 as forward and reverse primers and SEQ ID NO. 18 as probe sequence for serotype 7F;

- SEQ ID NO. 19 and 20 as forward and reverse primers and SEQ ID NO. 21 as probe sequence for serotype 8;

- SEQ ID NO. 22 and 23 as forward and reverse primers and SEQ ID NO. 24 as probe sequence for serotype 9V/A;

- SEQ ID NO. 25 and 26 as forward and reverse primers and SEQ ID NO. 27 as probe sequence for serotype 10AF;

- SEQ ID NO. 28 and 29 as forward and reverse primers and SEQ ID NO. 30 as probe sequence for serotype 12ABF;

- SEQ ID NO. 31 and 32 as forward and reverse primers and SEQ ID NO. 33 as probe sequence for serotype 14;

- SEQ ID NO. 34 and 35 as forward and reverse primers and SEQ ID NO. 36 as probe sequence for serotype 15;

- SEQ ID NO. 37 and 38 as forward and reverse primers and SEQ ID NO. 39 as probe sequence for serotype 18B/C;

- SEQ ID NO. 40 and 41 as forward and reverse primers and SEQ ID NO. 42 as probe sequence for serotype 19A;

- SEQ ID NO. 43 and 44 as forward and reverse primers and SEQ ID NO. 45 as probe sequence for serotype 19 B/F;

- SEQ ID NO. 46 and 47 as forward and reverse primers and SEQ ID NO. 48 as probe sequence for serotype 20;

- SEQ ID NO. 49 and 50 as forward and reverse primers and SEQ ID NO. 51 as probe sequence for serotype 22F/A;

- SEQ ID NO. 52 and 53 as forward and reverse primers and SEQ ID NO. 54 as probe sequence for serotype 23F;

- SEQ ID NO. 55 and 56 as forward and reverse primers and SEQ ID NO. 57 as probe sequence for serotype 33 A F;

- SEQ ID NO. 58 and 59 as forward and reverse primers and SEQ ID NO. 60 as probe sequence for serotype 35B; - SEQ ID NO. 61 and 62 as forward and reverse primers and SEQ ID NO. 63 as probe sequence for serotype 38;

- SEQ ID NO. 65 and 66 as forward and reverse primers and SEQ ID NO. 67 as probe sequence for serotype 16F;

- SEQ ID NO. 68 and 69 as forward and reverse primers and SEQ ID NO. 70 as probe sequence for serotype 7B/7C;

- SEQ ID NO. 71 and 72 as forward and reverse primers and SEQ ID NO. 73 as probe sequence for serotype 35F (47F);

- SEQ ID NO. 74 and 75 as forward and reverse primers and SEQ ID NO. 76 as probe sequence for serotype 17F;

- SEQ ID NO. 77 and 78 as forward and reverse primers and SEQ ID NO. 79 as probe sequence for serotype 23B;

- SEQ ID NO. 80 and 81 as forward and reverse primers and SEQ ID NO. 82 as probe sequence for serotype 23A;

- SEQ ID NO. 83 and 84 as forward and reverse primer for serotype 29 and SEQ ID NO.

85 as probe sequence for serotype 29;

- SEQ ID NO. 86 and 87 as forward and reverse primers and SEQ ID NO. 88 as probe sequence for serotype 2;

- SEQ ID NO. 89 and 90 as forward and reverse primers and SEQ ID NO. 91 as probe sequence for serotype 1 1;

- SEQ ID NO. 92 and 93 as forward and reverse primers and SEQ ID NO. 94 as probe sequence for serotype 21 ;

- SEQ ID NO. 95 and 96 as forward and reverse primers and SEQ ID NO. 97 as probe sequence for serotype 24A/24F.

In a still preferred embodiment the set of primer oligonucleotides and the probe oligonucleotide are selected from the group of:

- SEQ ID NO. 4 and 5 as forward and reverse primers and SEQ ID NO. 6 as probe sequence for serotype 3; - SEQ ID NO. 1 and 2 as forward and reverse primers and SEQ ID NO. 3 as probe sequence for serotype 1 ;

- SEQ ID NO. 7 and 8 as forward and reverse primers and SEQ ID NO. 9 as probe sequence for serotype 4;

- SEQ ID NO. 10 and 1 1 as forward and reverse primers and SEQ ID NO. 12 as probe sequence for serotype 5;

- SEQ ID NO. 13 and 14 as forward and reverse primers and SEQ ID NO. 15 as probe sequence for serotype 6A/B;

- SEQ ID NO. 16 and 17 as forward and reverse primers and SEQ ID NO. 18 as probe sequence for serotype 7F;

- SEQ ID NO. 19 and 20 as forward and reverse primers and SEQ ID NO. 21 as probe sequence for serotype 8;

- SEQ ID NO. 22 and 23 as forward and reverse primers and SEQ ID NO. 24 as probe sequence for serotype 9V/A;

- SEQ ID NO. 31 and 32 as forward and reverse primers and SEQ ID NO. 33 as probe sequence for serotype 14;

- SEQ ID NO. 34 and 35 as forward and reverse primers and SEQ ID NO. 36 as probe sequence for serotype 15;

- SEQ ID NO. 37 and 38 as forward and reverse primers and SEQ ID NO. 39 as probe sequence for serotype 18B/C;

- SEQ ID NO. 40 and 41 as forward and reverse primers and SEQ ID NO. 42 as probe sequence for serotype 19A;

- SEQ ID NO. 43 and 44 as forward and reverse primers and SEQ ID NO. 45 as probe sequence for serotype 19 B/F;

- SEQ ID NO. 49 and 50 as forward and reverse primers and SEQ ID NO. 51 as probe sequence for serotype 22F/A;

- SEQ ID NO. 52 and 53 as forward and reverse primers and SEQ ID NO. 54 as probe sequence for serotype 23F.

In a yet preferred embodiment the set of primer oligonucleotides and the probe oligonucleotides for different serotypes are grouped in one or more reaction environments. In a preferred embodiment of said aspect of the invention, the nucleic acid sequences are DNA because RNA is labile and does not keep for a long time and Taq DNA polymerase works better with DNA. In a more preferred embodiment, DNA sequences are genes or specific sequences of the serotypes. Still more preferably said genes or specific sequences of the serotypes are from CpsA gene.

Preferably, primer oligonucleotides are grouped in a plurality of reaction environments. Each group may contain 2 primer/probe sets. Any combination of primer/probe sets specific for different serotypes is accepted.

The RT-PCR reaction is carried out for n amplification cycles, preferably more than 40, even more preferably from 43 to 45 cycles, even more preferably 45 cycles. The reliability of the diagnostic outcome from this aspect of the invention is improved based on the number of RT- PCR cycles and 45 is the best value. An amplification of more than 45 cycles does not improve the reliability of the diagnostic outcome. The diagnostic outcome is compared with the threshold cycle (CT). The CT is the cycle wherein the fluorescence signals emitted are neatly measurable and statistically valid relative to the background noise. If at CT a significantly higher fluorescence and statistically meaningful is found, there may be determined, based on the frequency of the fluorescence emitted and on how the TaqMan fluorescent probes have been prepared in the TaqMan probes, which sequence, and therefore which serotype, is present in the sample and which is not. If no spontaneous fluorescence (i.e. different from the background noise) is measured, one may infer that the sequences specific for the serotype are not present in the DNA extracted from the sample taken.

According to said aspect of the invention, if the presence of said genes at the end of said RT- PCR reaction is detected or not detected, it may be concluded that said serotype is or is not present in the sample taken from the host. Embodiments of said aspect of the invention are reported in even greater detail in the example. An advantage of the present method over the methods of the known art is that it allows the use of nucleic acid, preferably DNA extracted from a sample of biological tissue.

The invention will be now illustrated by the following non limiting examples, figures and tables. EXAMPLES

Streptococcus Pneumoniae isolates

Eight bacterial strains of Streptococcus Pneumoniae were obtained from ATCC (respectively ATCC 6301 for 1, ATCC 6304 for 4, ATCC 6305 for 5, ATCC 10357 for 19A, ATCC 6323 for 23F, ATCC 6326 for 6B, ATCC 10368 for 9V, ATCC BAA-659 for 6A). 38 well characterized S.pneumoniae isolates from eighteen serotypes (1 , 3, 4, 5, 6A, 6B, 7F, 8, 9V, 12F, 14, 15B/C, 18C, 19A, 19F, 22F, 23F,35B) which had been isolated from blood or CSF or throat swab samples and stored in germ bank at the Microbiology Laboratory of the Anna Meyer Children Hospital were used for molecular serotyping.

Biological samples

Sixty-nine biological samples (27 blood samples, 4 cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) samples, 4 pleural fluids and 34 pharyngeal swabs), found positive for Streptococcus Pneumoniae by Realtime PCR on lytA gene as previously described [3] and obtained from children with a clinical suspicion of invasive pneumococcal infection were tested for CpsA by standard PCR and agarose gel electrophoresis as described in following paragraphs; samples positive for both lytA and CpsA were included in serotyping analyses both by multiplex-sequential PCR (MS-PCR) and Realtime-PCR.

Bacterial DNA extraction

Bacterial genomic DNA was extracted from bacterial strains or biological samples using QIAmp DNeasy Blood & Tissue kit (Qiagen, Hilden, Germany) with protocol for blood and body fluids, according to the manufacturer's instructions for extraction of a 200 \L sample. Molecular diagnosis di Streptococcus pneumoniae

The presence of Streptococcus Pneumoniae DNA in biological samples and isolates was evaluated by molecular methods as previously described [3]. Briefly, primers and probes within the autolysin gene lytA [21] were used for RT amplification at a final concentration of 300 nM for primers, and 50 nM for JOE-labeled probes. The cycle threshold (Cr) value is the PCR cycle number (out of 45) at which the measured fluorescent signal exceeds a calculated background threshold identifying amplification of the target sequence. If no increase in fluorescent signal is observed after 45 cycles, the sample is assumed to be negative. The presence of Streptococcus Pneumoniae was furtherly confirmed by the amplification of CpsA gene in multiplex sequential PCR as previously described [3-4] and briefly described in the next paragraph.

PCR serotyping by Multiplex sequential PCR and standard cultural methods

Molecular serotyping by sequential multiplex PCR was performed both on bacterial isolates and directly on clinical samples. All the RT-PCR positive samples were included in the analysis.

Briefly, thirty-one primer couples [3] were grouped into nine multiplex reactions. CpsA (pneumococcal capsular polysaccharide synthesis gene) primers were included in all the reaction mix as a confirmatory test [3, 22]. Amplification was performed in a Perkin-Elmer GeneAmp PCR system 2720 (Applied Biosystems, Foster City, CA, USA) under the following conditions: 95°C for 15 minutes followed by 35 amplification cycles of 94°C for 30 seconds, 54°C for 90 seconds, and 72°C for 60 seconds. A final hold was performed at 72°C for 10 minutes. The PCR products were analyzed by gel electrophoresis on 2% NuSieve agarose gels (Cambrex Bio Science, Inc., Rockland, ME) in lx TAE buffer.

Cultural serotyping was performed using specific pneumococcal antisera on bacterial isolates (Biogenetics Sri, Padova, Italy) following manufacturer instructions.

PCR serotyping by Realtime PCR

Primers and probes (Tables 1 and 2 and Fig. 4) were designed using the ABI Primer Express Software Package. For serotype 1 the design was based on previously published Cps gene locus of SEQ ID. no. 64 (Fig. 3).

Fig. 4 shows a list of amplified regions, specific primers and probe for each serotype of S. pneumoniae.

The RT amplification was performed in 25 \L reaction volumes containing 2x TaqMan Universal Master Mix (Applied Biosystem, Foster City, CA, USA); primers and JOE labeled probes were used at a concentration of 400nM; FAM labeled probes at a concentration of 200 nM. Six μΐ of DNA extract were used for each reaction. All reactions were performed in triplicate. A negative control (no-template) and a positive control were included in every run. DNA was amplified in an ABI 7500 sequence detection system (Applied Biosystem, Foster City, CA, USA) using, for all the primers couples, the same cycling parameters as follows: 50° for 2 min for UNG digestion, 95°C for 10 min followed by 45 cycles of a two-stage temperature profile of 95°C for 15 sec and 60°C for 1 min.

As for molecular diagnosis of IPD (invasive pneumococcal didease) by realtime PCR, if no increase in fluorescent signal was observed after 45 cycles, the sample was assumed to be negative and was reported as non-typeable.

Pneumococcal serotype classification and correlation with the existing conjugate vaccine

As previously described [23], pneumococcal serotypes were classified as "PCV-7 serotypes" if they were included in the conjugate vaccine (4,6B,9V,14,18C,19F or 23F). They were classified as "PCV-7 related serotypes" if they were from the same serogroups and were assumed or known to be cross-reactive with PCV7 serotypes (6A,9A,9L,9N,18A,18B,18F,19B,19C,23A,23B); all the other, including 19A, known to be non cross-reactive with 19F, were classified as "non-vaccine serotypes" [23].

Statistical analysis

Data were evaluated to determine how many samples were positive by each test, as well as those positive by two tests and those positive by only one test. Agreement between the two tests was assessed by Cohen's kappa statistic, with values of 0.00 to 0.20 indicating poor agreement, 0.21 to 0.40 indicating fair agreement, 0.41 to 0.60 indicating moderate agreement, 0.61 to 0.80 indicating good agreement, and 0.81 to 1.00 indicating excellent agreement. Marginal homogeneity of the two tests was assessed by McNemar's test. Results were expressed as mean levels and standard deviations. All continuous variables were expressed as mean ± SD. Fisher exact test and Pearson's chi-square test were used when appropriate.

External Quality Control An External Quality Control for Real-time PCR and standard PCR is regularly carried out with excellent results in the Laboratory of Immunology where all the molecular test were performed.

RESULTS

During the set up of the method subject of the present invention, only 15 primer/probe set, representing the most frequent Streptococcus Pneumoniae serotypes in western world, were initially included. With such group of primer/probe it was possible to identify and serotype 92% of IPD (invasive pneumococcal disease) cases. A group of 6 additional primer/probe was then added giving a 4% increase in serotype identification. Therefore, it was found that in a preferred embodiment, the present invention uses a panel of primer/probe including 21 serotypes that allows to achieve, at present, pneumococcal serotyping in over 94% cases in Italy and likely in most western countries where the distribution is similar. In details, using the primer/probe sets described in the present invention the highest efficiency and the best cost/benefit ratio are obtained. In fact, the optimized combination gives the highest frequency of serotyping results with the less expense. Moreover, the method of the present invention allows to include primers/probe for additional serotypes, therefore it can be adapted to possible epidemiological changes and serotype shifts over the years and in different parts of the world.

The amplified sequences detected with the primer/probe sets here described can be considered as molecular markers for invasive pneumococcal infections due to different serotypes. Each amplified sequence is to be considered, therefore as a specific marker for a unique infection.

In conclusion, using the present invention's method, based on Realtime PCR in a clinical setting, it is possible to achieve diagnosis and serotyping of invasive pneumococcal infection in cases for which the diagnosis was not possible with other methods used before. As from examples given in the section below, 83% pneumonia cases diagnosed and serotyped by

Realtime PCR would not have been serotyped using only cultural methods, similarly 56% meningitis would not have been serotyped (Fig.l).

Moreover, serotype distribution as evidenced by Realtime PCR appears different from what is previously known. Since present cultural methods fail to detect most cases of bacteremic pneumococcal pneumonia, the frequency of serotype 1 detected using such method is significantly lower than that detected by Realtime PCR (Fig.2). Molecular diagnosis of Streptococcus pneumoniae

Isolates

All the pneumococcal isolates (either obtained from ATCC or obtained from the microbiology lab) resulted positive with both MS-PCR (CpsA gene) and RT PCR (lytA gene).

Biological samples

Positivity for both CpsA in MS-PCR and lytA in RT-PCR was found in 67/69 (97.1%) samples. The two samples (blood) negative for CpsA in MS-PCR had a RT-PCR Cr respectively of 38 and 39. Only the 67 samples positive for both lytA gene in RT-PCR and CpsA gene in MS-PCR were included in the study.

Serotyping of Streptococcus Pneumoniae isolates

The eight isolates obtained from ATCC were serotyped by both molecular methods and were consistent with ATCC serotype.

All the 38 Streptococcus Pneumoniae isolates serotyped by the two molecular methods showed a complete concordance with serologic typing (serotype 3:7 isolates; serotypes 1, 4, 5, 6A: 3 isolates/each; serotypes 6B,7F, 8, 9V, 12F, 14: 2 isolates/each; serotypes 15B/C, 18C, 19A, 19F, 22F, 23F, 35B 1 isolate/each). No cross-reaction between serotypes was found for any primer/probe set.

Serotyping of Streptococcus Pneumoniae from biological samples

Among the 67 biological samples found positive for Streptococcus pneumoniae, 43/67 (64.2%; 16/25 blood samples; 4/4 CSF; 4/4 pleural fluid, 19/34 swabs) could be serotyped by MS-PCR, while 61/67 (23/25 whole blood, 4/4 CSF, 4/4 pleural fluid, 30/34 pharyngeal swabs 91.0 %, p=0.001) could be serotyped by RT-PCR (K cohen:0.3; McNemars's p<0.001). The 21 biological samples that could be serotyped only by RT-PCR (7/25 blood samples, 12/34 pharyngeal swabs) had a Cr(threshold cycle) >30 (median 34.5; SD 2.4; range 30-38 with no difference between blood samples and swabs). All CSF and pleural fluid samples could be serotyped with both methods. One sample (pharyngeal swab) that could be serotyped only by MS-PCR was a serotypes 6C/D, primers of which were not available for RT-PCR. Five samples (2 blood samples, 3 pharyngeal swabs) could not be serotyped with any method.

When only samples obtained from otherwise sterile fluids (blood, CSF, pleural fluid) were analysed, MS-PCR allowed serotyping in 24/33 (72.7%) samples (16 WB, 4 CSF, 4 PF obtained from 25 patients) and RT-PCR in 31/33 (93.9%) samples (23 WB, 4 CSF, 4PF) (p=0.047; 95% CL 0.03-0.98). Serotypes found with the two molecular methods are shown in Table 3. Table 3- Comparison between Multiplex sequential PCR (MS-PCR) and Realtime PCR (RT- PCR) in evaluating serotype distribution in sterile fluids from 25 patients with pneumonia (P) or meningitis (M) .

Multiple colonization by different pneumococcal serotypes was demonstrated in 20/30 (66.7%) pharyngeal swabs typed by RT-PCR, and in 3/19 (15.8%) swabs typed by MS-PCR (p=0.002; 95%CL=2.02-44.13). Realtime PCR demonstrated 1 single serotype in 10/30 (33.3%), 2 different serotypes in 13/30 (43.3%), 3 different serotypes in 6/30 (20.0%) and 4 different serotypes in 1/30 (3.3%); MS-PCR demonstrated 2 different serotypes in 3/19 (15.8%), while in 16/19 samples (84.2%) only one serotype was found (Table 4).

The mean number of serotypes found in each nasopharyngeal swab was 1.2 (range 1-2) for MS-PCR and 1.9 (range 1 -4) for RT-PCR (p=0.0006; 95% CL= 0.25-0.75). Multiple colonization was never found in blood or CSF or pleural fluid. Multiplex sequential PCR allows pneumococcal serotyping in about two/third cases (64.2%) when used directly on clinical samples (blood, CSF, pleural fluid or nasopharingeal swabs) while Realtime PCR allows pneumococcal serotyping in over 90% cases using a panel of 15 primer/probe sets, with a good concordance between the two tests. However infections due to different serotypes could be diagnosed using additional primer/probe sets. This flexibility is important to make the method suitable all over the world. A starting panel of 30 or more serotypes could be considered, but it would not be economical; in fact a panel of 15 primer/probe sets cover over 90% serotypes while a panel of 30 primer/probe sets adds little more than an additional 5%. However, while in Italy and in other western countries the 15- serotype-panel used in the present research is very efficient in pneumococcal serotyping, individuating with low cost the serotypes in over 90% cases, other serotypes could be more frequent in other parts of the world [29] so requiring different primer/probe sets. Moreover distribution of pneumococcal serotypes may change over years, both as a consequence of immune pressure [30] and of secular trend [31-33]. The present techniques allows to include other primer/probe sets whenever needed without changing laboratory protocols; other primer/probe sets can be easily added or can substitute one or more of the primers included in the present invention Other primer/probe sets can be included in a formulation of the test suitable for other countries in the world. EXAMPLE 2: Rare serotypes

As described, the method is endowed with high flexibility, and new serotypes can be added to the test when particular conditions are verified, for instance the primers and probes below are discovered and made available (new serotypes are found in a given geographical area where they were absent before); the frequency of some serotypes, previously considered too low and so irrelevant, becomes important in the epidemiologic context. This happens, for example, when a serotype frequency is found higher than 2%.

With the aim to create diagnostic panels for different regions in the world with respect to a particular pneumococcal epidemiology, a further panel was created and tested. Such panel contains the rarest serotypes in western and industrialized areas, but more frequent in the Southern parts of the world (see Table 2).

The Serotype geographical distribution of table 2 is as follows: 16F Africa, America Latina, USA Europa

7B /7C (40) America Latina, USA

35F (47F) Africa, America Latina, USA

17F USA America Latina Africa

23B USA America Latina Africa

23 A USA America Latina Africa Europa

29 USA

2 USA America Latina Africa

1 1 USA America Latina Africa Europa

35B Africa, America Latina, USA

21 USA America Latina Africa

24A 24F(48) USA America Latina Africa

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