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Clin Infect Dis. 2003 May 1;36(9):1162-70. Epub 2003 Apr 22.

Nucleic acid amplification tests for the diagnosis of pneumonia.

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Microbiology Unit, Canterbury Health Laboratories, and Department of Pathology, Christchurch School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Christchurch, New Zealand.


Molecular diagnostic techniques, such as polymerase chain reaction (PCR), are promising tools for the rapid etiological diagnosis of pneumonia. PCR offers potential advantages over conventional tests for the detection of Mycoplasma pneumoniae, Legionella species, and Chlamydia pneumoniae. For pneumococcal pneumonia in adults, PCR adds little to existing diagnostic tests and is unable to distinguish pneumococcal colonization from infection when testing respiratory samples. Although PCR is probably more sensitive than are conventional microscopy-based methods for diagnosing Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia, the specificity is uncertain, because P. carinii can occasionally be detected in the absence of clinical symptoms. PCR is useful for the diagnosis of viral pneumonia in immunocompromised patients. Further work is required to better characterize the role of PCR versus the role of other tests for diagnosing pneumonia and to develop standard PCR assays that can be readily adopted by routine diagnostic laboratories.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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