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PLoS One. 2013;8(2):e56706. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0056706. Epub 2013 Feb 22.

Diagnostic performance of an Aspergillus-specific nested PCR assay in cerebrospinal fluid samples of immunocompromised patients for detection of central nervous system aspergillosis.

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Department of Hematology and Oncology, Mannheim University Hospital, University of Heidelberg, Mannheim, Germany.


Central nervous system (CNS) invasive aspergillosis (IA) is a fatal complication in immunocompromised patients. Confirming the diagnosis is rarely accomplished as invasive procedures are impaired by neutropenia and low platelet count. Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) cultures or galactomannan (GM) regularly yield negative results thus suggesting the need for improving diagnostic procedures. Therefore the performance of an established Aspergillus-specific nested polymerase chain reaction assay (PCR) in CSF samples of immunocompromised patients with suspicion of CNS IA was evaluated. We identified 113 CSF samples from 55 immunocompromised patients for whom CNS aspergillosis was suspected. Of these patients 8/55 were identified as having proven/probable CNS IA while the remaining 47 patients were classified as having either possible (n = 22) or no CNS IA (n = 25). PCR positivity in CSF was observed for 8/8 proven/probable, in 4/22 possible CNS IA patients and in 2/25 NoIA patients yielding sensitivity and specificity values of 1.0 (95% CI 0.68-1) and 0.93 (95% CI 0.77-0.98) and a positive likelihood ratio of 14 and negative likelihood ratio of 0.0, respectively, thus resulting in a diagnostic odds ratio of ∞. The retrospective analysis of CSF samples from patients with suspected CNS IA yielded a high sensitivity of the nested PCR assay. PCR testing of CSF samples is recommended for patients for whom CNS IA is suspected, especially for those whose clinical condition does not allow invasive procedures as a positive PCR result makes the presence of CNS IA in that patient population highly likely.

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