Infections caused by yeasts have increased in previous decades due primarily to the increasing population of immunocompromised patients. In addition, infections caused by less common species such as Pichia, Rhodotorula, Trichosporon, and Saccharomyces spp. have been widely reported. This study extensively evaluated the feasibility of sequence analysis of the rRNA gene internal transcribed spacer (ITS) regions for the identification of yeasts of clinical relevance. Both the ITS1 and ITS2 regions of 373 strains (86 species), including 299 reference strains and 74 clinical isolates, were amplified by PCR and sequenced. The sequences were compared to reference data available at the GenBank database by using BLAST (basic local alignment search tool) to determine if species identification was possible by ITS sequencing. Since the GenBank database currently lacks ITS sequence entries for some yeasts, the ITS sequences of type (or reference) strains of 15 species were submitted to GenBank to facilitate identification of these species. Strains producing discrepant identifications between the conventional methods and ITS sequence analysis were further analyzed by sequencing of the D1-D2 domain of the large-subunit rRNA gene for species clarification. The rates of correct identification by ITS1 and ITS2 sequence analysis were 96.8% (361/373) and 99.7% (372/373), respectively. Of the 373 strains tested, only 1 strain (Rhodotorula glutinis BCRC 20576) could not be identified by ITS2 sequence analysis. In conclusion, identification of medically important yeasts by ITS sequencing, especially using the ITS2 region, is reliable and can be used as an accurate alternative to conventional identification methods.
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