Objective: This review focuses on commercial and in-house-developed reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) assays used for the detection of enteroviral infections. In addition to providing details on the performance of RT-PCR, its specificity, and sensitivity, the clinical utility of this diagnostic method with specific reference to its impact on hospitalization and cost savings is addressed.
Data sources: MEDLINE was searched for reports relating to RT-PCR detection of the enteroviruses in adults and children. The search was restricted to studies reported in English language journals.
Study selection: Reports documenting detailed information regarding the RT-PCR conditions, primers, sensitivity, specificity and, if relevant, clinical impact were selected for analysis.
Data extraction: Details regarding method of extraction of the enteroviral genome, the primers used, RT-PCR conditions, and sensitivity and specificity of the assay were extracted from the literature. For reports detailing the use of RT-PCR in the clinical management of enteroviral infections in children, the reduction in duration of hospitalization and health care cost savings were recorded.
Data synthesis: Reverse-transcription PCR can increase the yield of detection of enteroviruses from cerebrospinal fluid by a mean of approximately 20% over tissue culture. Reverse-transcription PCR of cerebrospinal fluid has been shown to exhibit sensitivity and specificity values of 86% to 100% and 92% to 100%, respectively. Reductions of 1 to 3 days of hospitalization per patient are predicted if RT-PCR is used to diagnose enteroviral meningitis in children.
Conclusions: Reverse-transcription PCR detection of enteroviral infections is an extremely rapid, sensitive, and specific diagnostic modality. Both commercial assays and assays developed in-house appear to be equivalent with regard to sensitivity and specificity. Reverse-transcription PCR diagnosis of enteroviral infections in children could reduce the length of hospitalization and result in significant health care cost savings.