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The potential of metagenomic next-generation sequencing in diagnosis of spinal infection: a retrospective study



Metagenomic next-generation sequencing (mNGS) is a new approach to identify the infecting organism in infectious diseases. Our aim was to evaluate the accuracy of mNGS in determining the etiology of spinal infection.


In this retrospective study, patients who had a suspected spinal infection and underwent mNGS for diagnosis in our hospital were eligible for inclusion. Samples for mNGS, culture, and histopathological tests were collected surgically or with a CT-guided needle biopsy. Sensitivity and specificity were calculated for mNGS and culture test, using histopathological results as reference.


A total of 31 mNGS tests in 30 cases were included. Twenty-six cases were classified as infected, and four cases were considered aseptic. mNGS achieved a specificity of 75.0% [95% confidence interval (CI), 21.9% to 98.7%], sensitivity was 70.3% (95% CI, 49.7% to 85.5%). mNGS was more sensitive than culture at 14.8% (95% CI, 4.9% to 34.6%, P < 0.0001). However, the specificities of mNGS and culture were statistically similar.


We described here the power of mNGS in the etiological diagnosing of spinal infection. Our study opens the possibility for more extensive use of mNGS techniques in the identification of pathogens in patients with suspected spinal infection.

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Funding was provided by National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 82001458) and Medical Health Science and Technology Project of Zhejiang Provincial Health Commission (Grant No. 2018RC033).

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Correspondence to Lingyun Wu or Yuxiang Xiao.

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Ma, C., Wu, H., Chen, G. et al. The potential of metagenomic next-generation sequencing in diagnosis of spinal infection: a retrospective study. Eur Spine J 31, 442–447 (2022).

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  • Spinal infection
  • Metagenomic next-generation sequencing
  • Etiological diagnosis
  • Sensitivity