BACKGROUND: Amplicon-based mycobiome analysis has the potential to identify all fungal species within a sample and hence could provide a valuable diagnostic assay for use in clinical mycology settings. In the last decade, the mycobiome has been increasingly characterised by targeting the internal transcribed spacer (ITS) regions. Although ITS targets give broad coverage and high sensitivity, they fail to provide accurate quantitation as the copy number of ITS regions in fungal genomes is highly variable even within species. To address these issues, this study aimed to develop a novel NGS fungal diagnostic assay using an alternative amplicon target.

METHODS: Novel universal primers were designed to amplify a highly diverse single copy and uniformly sized DNA target (Tef1) to enable mycobiome analysis on the Illumina iSeq100 which is a low cost, small footprint and simple to use next-generation sequencing platform. To enable automated analysis and rapid results, a streamlined bioinformatics workflow and sequence database were also developed. Sequencing of mock fungal communities was performed to compare the Tef1 assay and established ITS1-based method. The assay was further evaluated using clinical respiratory samples and the feasibility of using internal spike-in quantitative controls was assessed.

RESULTS: The Tef1 assay successfully identified and quantified Aspergillus, Penicillium, Candida, Cryptococcus, Rhizopus, Fusarium and Lomentospora species from mock communities. The Tef1 assay was also capable of differentiating closely related species such as A. fumigatus and A. fischeri. In addition, it outperformed ITS1 at identifying A. fumigatus and other filamentous pathogens in mixed fungal communities (in the presence or absence of background human DNA). The assay could detect as few as 2 haploid genome equivalents of A. fumigatus from clinical respiratory samples. Lastly, spike-in controls were demonstrated to enable semi-quantitation of A. fumigatus load in clinical respiratory samples using sequencing data.

CONCLUSIONS: This study has developed and tested a novel metabarcoding target and found the assay outperforms ITS1 at identifying clinically relevant filamentous fungi. The assay is a promising diagnostic candidate that could provide affordable NGS analysis to clinical mycology laboratories.

Original languageEnglish
Article number63
JournalBMC Microbiology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 19 Feb 2024


  • Humans
  • Mycobiome/genetics
  • DNA, Fungal/genetics
  • Mycoses
  • Fungi/genetics
  • High-Throughput Nucleotide Sequencing/methods
  • Diagnostics
  • Mycobiome
  • Amplicon sequencing
  • Fungal infection


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