Culture negative empyema in a critically ill child: an opportunity for rapid molecular diagnostics

BMC Anesthesiol. 2014 Nov 22;14:107. doi: 10.1186/1471-2253-14-107. eCollection 2014.


Background: Nucleic acid amplification technologies (NAAT) are advancing our ability to make rapid molecular diagnoses in patients with serious culture negative infections. This is the first report of PCR coupled to electrospray ionization mass spectrometry use in the evaluation of complicated community acquired pneumonia in a pediatric patient.

Case presentation: We present a case of culture negative empyema in a critically ill, Caucasian, 2-year-old girl who was treated with broad-spectrum empiric antibiotics, in which the length of stay was prolonged by adverse effects of the empiric antibiotic treatment. PCR coupled to electrospray ionization mass spectrometry was applied to culture negative fluid and tissue samples from the patient in order to determine the etiology of the empyema.

Conclusions: Using this method, Streptococcus mitis/viridans was identified as the pathogen. A retrospective review of cases of empyema in children at our institution found that 87.5% of cases were negative for identification of a pathogen and antibiotics were administered to 100% of cases prior to collecting pleural fluid for culture. Understanding the role of Streptococcus mitis/viridans group in the etiology of empyema using an advanced NAAT coupled with mass spectrometry can enlighten clinicians as to the impact of this pathogen in community acquired pneumonia and help assist with antibiotic stewardship.

Keywords: Antimicrobial stewardship; Culture negative infection; Empyema; Pediatric infection.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Community-Acquired Infections / diagnosis*
  • Community-Acquired Infections / drug therapy
  • Community-Acquired Infections / microbiology
  • Critical Illness
  • Empyema / diagnosis
  • Empyema / drug therapy*
  • Empyema / microbiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Molecular Diagnostic Techniques / methods
  • Nucleic Acid Amplification Techniques / methods
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Spectrometry, Mass, Electrospray Ionization / methods
  • Streptococcal Infections / drug therapy*
  • Streptococcal Infections / microbiology
  • Streptococcus mitis / isolation & purification
  • Viridans Streptococci / isolation & purification


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents