Background: Streptococcus pneumoniae identification has traditionally been based on two biochemical tests, susceptibility of pneumococci to optochin and solubility in bile-salt solution. Due to slowness and sometimes difficulty in interpretation, the bile solubility test has fallen into disuse. The main objective of this work was to assess the current effectiveness of the optochin susceptibility test in pneumococcal identification in clinical practice.
Materials and Methods: Overall 126 viridans group streptococci consecutively isolated from respiratory samples were analyzed using the optochin susceptibility test by picking one colony from the culture. Sixty-two were initially considered optochin susceptible, and 64 were considered optochin resistant and analyzed with the bile solubility test. If a discrepancy between the tests was observed (i.e., whether an isolate was optochin susceptible and bile insoluble or optochin resistant and bile soluble), then the optochin susceptibility test was repeated, adjusting the inoculum to a McFarland standard of 0.5. Species were identified by sequencing the lytA and recA genes.
Results: Twelve discrepancies were initially observed. The result of the repeated optochin test showed that the initial optochin test of 4 isolates had been wrongly interpreted. Of the remaining 8 discrepancies, 2 optochin-resistant bile-soluble isolates were identified by gene sequencing as S. pneumoniae, and of the 6 optochin-susceptible bile-nonsoluble isolates, 3 were identified as Streptococcus mitis and 3 as Streptococcus pseudopneumoniae.
Conclusions: The optochin test correctly identified 90.5% of all recent viridans group streptococci clinical isolates which include both optochin susceptible (62/126 = 49.2%) and optochin resistant (64/126 = 50.8%) strains. Of the group of optochin susceptible viridans, 87.5% were correctly identified, and 93.5% of the optochin resistant group were correctly identified. However, this technique does not correctly differentiate between S. pneumoniae from other viridans group streptococci in the clinical setting. Additional testing is needed for that identification.