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Arch Pathol Lab Med. 1999 Dec;123(12):1161-9.

Reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction detection of the enteroviruses.

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Combined Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases, University of Nebraska Medical Center and Creighton University, USA.



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.


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.


Reports documenting detailed information regarding the RT-PCR conditions, primers, sensitivity, specificity and, if relevant, clinical impact were selected for analysis.


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.


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.


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.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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