Turnaround times for molecular testing of pediatric viral cerebrospinal fluid samples in United Kingdom laboratories

World J Clin Pediatr. 2022 Mar 18;11(3):289-294. doi: 10.5409/wjcp.v11.i3.289. eCollection 2022 May 9.


Background: Rapid molecular testing has revolutionized the management of suspected viral meningitis and encephalitis by providing an etiological diagnosis in < 90 min with potential to improve outcomes and shorten inpatient stays. However, use of molecular assays can vary widely.

Aim: To evaluate current practice for molecular testing of pediatric cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) samples across the United Kingdom using a structured questionnaire.

Methods: A structured telephone questionnaire survey was conducted between July and August 2020. Data was collected on the availability of viral CSF nucleic acid amplification testing (NAAT), criteria used for testing and turnaround times including the impact of the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic.

Results: Of 196/212 (92%) microbiology laboratories responded; 63/196 (32%) were excluded from final analysis as they had no on-site microbiology laboratory and outsourced their samples. Of 133 Laboratories included in the study, 47/133 (35%) had onsite facilities for viral CSF NAAT. Hospitals currently undertaking onsite NAAT (n = 47) had much faster turnaround times with 39 centers (83%) providing results in ≤ 24 h as compared to those referring samples to neighboring laboratories (5/86; 6%).

Conclusion: Onsite/near-patient rapid NAAT (including polymerase chain reaction) is recommended wherever possible to optimize patient management in the acute setting.

Keywords: Cerebrospinal fluid; Nucleic acid amplification testing; Questionnaire survey; Turnaround times; Viral studies.