Pneumocystis PCR: It Is Time to Make PCR the Test of Choice

Open Forum Infectious Diseases
Laura DoyleG W Procop


The testing strategy for Pneumocystis at the Cleveland Clinic changed from toluidine blue staining to polymerase chain reaction (PCR). We studied the differences in positivity rates for these assays and compared each with the detection of Pneumocystis in companion specimens by cytology and surgical pathology. We reviewed the results of all Pneumocystis test orders 1 year before and 1 year after the implementation of a Pneumocystis-specific PCR. We also reviewed the corresponding cytology and surgical pathology results, if performed. Finally, we reviewed the medical records of patients with rare Pneumocystis detected by PCR in an effort to differentiate colonization vs true disease. Toluidine blue staining and surgical pathology had similar sensitivities and negative predictive values, both of which were superior to cytology. There was a >4-fold increase in the annual detection of Pneumocystis by PCR compared with toluidine blue staining (toluidine blue staining: 11/1583 [0.69%] vs PCR: 44/1457 [3.0%]; chi-square P < .001). PCR detected 1 more case than surgical pathology and was far more sensitive than cytology. Chart review demonstrated that the vast majority of patients with rare Pneumocystis detected were immunosuppressed, h...Continue Reading


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