The role of multiplex PCR test in identification of bacterial pathogens in lower respiratory tract infections

Pak J Med Sci. 2014 Sep;30(5):1011-6. doi: 10.12669/pjms.305.5098.


Objectives: Lower respiratory tract infection is one of the most important causes of morbidity and mortality. However establishing a microbial diagnosis for patients with lower respiratory tract infection is still challenging and is often achieved in only half of cases by conventional methods. This study was designed to compare the fast responsive PCR method with the culture method in lower respiratory tract infections and to evaluate the reliability of multiplex PCR method.

Methods: One hundred ninety seven patients with the symptoms of acute lower respiratory tract infection, and diagnosed with community-acquired pneumonia, acute exacerbation of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and exacerbations of bronchiectasis were included in the study. Both culture and PCR methods was performed for the isolation of most commonly seen bacteria, from sputum, nasopharyngeal swabs and bronchoalveolar lavage fluid samples.

Results: While at least one bacterial isolation was determined in 62 (31.5%) of all patients with culture method, this number increased to 125 (63.5%) with multiplex PCR. The bacteria most commonly identified by PCR were S. pneumoniae (32%) and H. influenzae (31%). There was a significant difference between PCR and culture in terms of multi-factor detection rates (p<0.005). Multiple bacteria were detected in only two cases in cultures; however, multiple pathogens were detected in 47 cases with PCR.

Conclusions: Conventional methods, such as culture and serology are not always adequate to detect the pathogens in lower respiratory tract. Real-time PCR assays proved highly sensitive and rapid. The prevalence of bacteria and multiple agent detected by real-time PCR compared with culture was substantially higher. Widespread use of PCR methods, by providing the immediate and appropriate ''agent specific antibiotic treatment'' of LRTI, will help reduce failure and contributes to a reduction in antibiotic resistance.

Keywords: Bacterial etiology; Culture; Lower respiratory tract infection; PCR.