Broad-range real time PCR and DNA sequencing for the diagnosis of bacterial meningitis

Scand J Infect Dis. 2006;38(1):27-35. doi: 10.1080/00365540500372861.


Rapid aetiological diagnosis of bacterial meningitis is crucial for the early targeting of antimicrobial and adjuvant therapy. Broad-range polymerase chain reaction (PCR) targeting the 16S rRNA gene allows aetiological diagnosis of bacterial meningitis when applied to cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). We assessed the additional diagnostic effect of applying a novel broad-range real time PCR and subsequent DNA sequencing to culture, microscopy, and broad-range conventional PCR on CSF in patients with suspected bacterial meningitis. Broad-range conventional PCR and broad-range real time PCR with subsequent DNA sequencing were applied to 206 CSF specimens collected consecutively from 203 patients aged 6 d to 86 y. Patients' charts were reviewed for clinical information. 17 pathogens were identified by PCR and DNA sequencing or culture. Three specimens were negative by culture but positive by broad-range real time PCR. Three specimens were positive by culture but negative by broad-range real time PCR. Compared with culture, the sensitivity of broad-range real time PCR was 86%, and the specificity 98%. Conventional PCR resulted in a sensitivity of 64% and specificity of 98%. Broad-range real time PCR was generally comparable to culture of CSF and may be a useful supplement, particularly when antimicrobial therapy has been administered. Broad-range real time PCR was more sensitive than broad-range conventional PCR and microscopy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Bacteria / genetics*
  • Bacteria / isolation & purification*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • DNA, Bacterial / cerebrospinal fluid
  • DNA, Bacterial / genetics
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Meningitis, Bacterial / cerebrospinal fluid
  • Meningitis, Bacterial / diagnosis*
  • Meningitis, Bacterial / microbiology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction / methods*


  • DNA, Bacterial