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N Engl J Med. 1988 Mar 10;318(10):589-93.

Diagnosis of Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia: improved detection in sputum with use of monoclonal antibodies.

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Critical Care Medicine Department, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Bethesda, MD 20892.


With the dramatic increase in the frequency of Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia associated with human immunodeficiency virus infection, there has been a need for more rapid and less invasive diagnostic techniques. Recent studies have shown that examination of induced sputum can establish the diagnosis of P. carinii pneumonia in about 55 percent of cases. To assess whether a recently developed indirect immunofluorescent stain using monoclonal antibodies was more sensitive than Giemsa or toluidine blue O stains in detecting P. carinii in sputum, we undertook two prospective studies. Of 63 patients at one institution from whom sputum specimens were obtained, 49 were ultimately given a diagnosis of P. carinii pneumonia, 46 of them by staining of sputum. The sensitivity of the three stains in detecting P. carinii was 45 of 49 (92 percent) for immunofluorescence; 37 of 49 (76 percent) for Diff-Quik (a Giemsa-type stain); and 39 of 49 (80 percent) for toluidine blue O. There were no false positive immunofluorescent stains. In a similar study of a series of 25 patients at another institution, a diagnosis of P. carinii pneumonia was made in 23 of 25 patients by staining of induced sputum. We conclude that examination of induced sputum is a rapid, sensitive, and inexpensive method for diagnosing P. carinii pneumonia and that indirect immunofluorescence is a practical and highly sensitive staining technique for establishing this diagnosis.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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