The present study assessed the diagnostic usefulness of a multiplex PCR (mPCR) for Streptococcus pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae, Mycoplasma pneumoniae and Chlamydophila pneumoniae applied to bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL).
Fibreoptic bronchoscopy was performed on 156 hospitalised adult patients with lower respiratory tract infection (LRTI) and 36 controls. BAL fluid was analysed with bacterial culture and mPCR.
By conventional diagnostic methods, S. pneumoniae, H. influenzae, M. pneumoniae and C. pneumoniae were aetiological agents in 14, 21, 3.2 and 0% of the LRTI patients, respectively. These pathogens were identified by BAL mPCR in 28, 47, 3.2 and 0.6% of cases, respectively, yielding sensitivities of 86% for S. pneumoniae, 88% for H. influenzae, 100% for M. pneumoniae and 0% for C. pneumoniae, and specificities of 81, 64, 100 and 99% for S. pneumoniae, H. influenzae, M. pneumoniae and C. pneumoniae, respectively. Of the 103 patients who had taken antibiotics prior to bronchoscopy, S. pneumoniae was identified by culture in 2.9% and by mPCR in 31%. Among the controls, mPCR identified S. pneumoniae in 11% and H. influenzae in 39%.
In lower respiratory tract infection patients, bronchoalveolar lavage multiplex PCR can be useful for identification of Streptococcus pneumoniae, Mycoplasma pneumoniae and Chlamydophila pneumoniae. The method appears to be particularly useful in patients treated with antibiotics.