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Crit Care. 2009;13(4):217. doi: 10.1186/cc7886. Epub 2009 Jul 15.

Bench-to-bedside review: the promise of rapid infection diagnosis during sepsis using polymerase chain reaction-based pathogen detection.

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Intensive Care Unit, Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust, Stott Lane, Salford, Greater Manchester, M6 8HD, UK.


Early infection diagnosis as the cause of a patient's systemic inflammatory syndrome is an important facet of sepsis care bundles aimed at saving lives. Microbiological culture provides the main route for infection diagnosis but by its nature cannot provide time-critical results that can impact on early management. Consequently, broad-spectrum and high-potency antibiotics are essential during the immediate management of suspected sepsis in critical care but are associated with the development of drug-resistant organisms and superinfections. Established molecular laboratory techniques based on polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technology can detect pathogen DNA rapidly and have been developed for translation into a clinical diagnostic setting. In the setting of sepsis in critical care, emerging commercial systems are now available for the analysis of whole blood within hours, with the presumed aim of adoption into the current care bundles. In this review, we consider the importance of early infection diagnosis in sepsis, how this is limited by culture approaches and how the emerging PCR methods are showing promise in early clinical observational studies. The strengths and weaknesses of culture and PCR pathogen detection in whole-blood samples will be highlighted and recommendations made for urgent appropriately powered diagnostic validation studies in advance of clinical effectiveness trials before these emerging PCR pathogen detection techniques can be considered for adoption in clinical practice.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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