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Med Mycol. 2006 Dec;44(8):733-9.

Evaluation of pan-fungal PCR assay and Aspergillus antigen detection in the diagnosis of invasive fungal infections in high risk paediatric cancer patients.

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Department of Clinical Pathology, National Cancer Institute, Cairo, Eygpt.


Profound and prolonged neutropenia following chemotherapy is a major risk factor for systemic fungal infection. As the early diagnosis of invasive fungal infection (IFI) is difficult, these infections are still associated with high morbidity and mortality. Recently, Pan-fungal polymerase chain reaction (PCR) has been a promising aid in rapid, early diagnosis of IFI. During the past few years, increasing numbers of suspected IFIs were encountered at our institution in patients with prolonged neutropenia after intensified immunosuppressive chemotherapy. The aim of this study was to investigate the diagnostic utility of both the aspergillus galactomannan (GM) antigen and the pan-fungal PCR assay in the diagnosis of IFI in high risk febrile neutropenic paediatric cancer patients. During one year period, 91 febrile neutropenic (FN) paediatric cases at high risk for developing IFI while receiving chemotherapy were investigated at National Cancer Institute, Egypt. These patients were subjected to clinical evaluation, chest CT scan, conventional blood cultures for bacterial and fungal pathogens, aspergillus GM antigen detection and PCR assay utilizing pan-fungal primers. Of the 91 FN episodes, 15 were proven IFI; whereas 27 cases were either probable (n=13) or possible IFI (n=14), and 49 were unlikely to be IFI episodes. Based on positive results for proven/probable IFI and compared to culture results, Pan-fungal PCR showed sensitivity, specificity, positive and negative predictive values of 75%, 92%, 84% and 87%; respectively. Aspergillus antigen test showed a sensitivity of 79%, specificity of 61%, positive and negative predictive values of 54% and 83%; respectively. A negative PCR in the proven and probable cases was closely related to previous antifungal therapy for a prior history of IFI. In patients at high risk for IFI, neither the sensitivity, nor specificity of the GM test was sufficient. The results of PCR assay was reasonably specific but not very sensitive and had a chance of missing the diagnosis of IFI. The PCR assay seems a promising test for objectively defining IFI, but is not recommended as the only tool for diagnosing IFI. Combining microscopy, culture, and PCR may improve the diagnostic outcome.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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