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Clin Microbiol Infect. 2007 Sep;13(9):879-86. Epub 2007 Jun 30.

Comparison of broad-range bacterial PCR and culture of cerebrospinal fluid for diagnosis of community-acquired bacterial meningitis.

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Department of Clinical Bacteriology, University of Göteborg, and Bacteriological Laboratory, Sahlgrenska University Hospital, Göteborg, Sweden.


Appropriate, rapid and reliable laboratory tests are essential for the diagnosis and optimal antibiotic therapy of acute bacterial meningitis. Broad-range bacterial PCR, combined with DNA sequencing, was compared with culture-based methods for examining cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) samples from patients with suspected meningitis. In total, 345 CSF specimens from 345 patients were analysed, with acute community-acquired bacterial meningitis being diagnosed in 74 patients. The CSF of 25 patients was positive by both PCR and culture; 26 patients had CSF specimens positive by PCR only, and 14 patients had specimens positive by culture only. The sensitivity of PCR and culture for clinically relevant meningitis was 59% (44/74) and 43% (32/74), respectively, while the specificity was 97% (264/271) and 97% (264/271), respectively. The commonest bacterial rRNA gene sequences detected by PCR only were those of Streptococcus pneumoniae and Neisseria meningitidis (n = 12). PCR failed to detect the bacterial rRNA gene in seven specimens from patients with symptoms compatible with acute bacterial meningitis. Overall, the results demonstrated that PCR in conjunction with sequencing may be a useful tool in the diagnosis of bacterial meningitis. PCR is particularly useful for analysing CSF from patients who have been treated with antibiotics before lumbar puncture.

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