Accurate diagnosis of pneumococcal pneumonia in the acute-care setting remains a challenge due to the inadequate sensitivity of conventional diagnostic tests. Sputum cultures, which are likely to have the highest diagnostic yields of all specimen types, have been considered unreliable, due to their inability to differentiate colonization from infection. Our objective was to evaluate the potential clinical utility of a rapid quantitative real-time PCR assay using sputum samples for Streptococcus pneumoniae in adult patients with community-acquired pneumonia (CAP). A prospective clinical observational study of consecutively enrolled emergency department patients with CAP was performed; only those patients with excess good-quality sputum samples were included for evaluation. Sputum samples were tested for the presence of S. pneumoniae by using a quantitative PCR that targets the pneumolysin gene. PCR findings were compared with those of a composite reference standard comprising Gram staining of sputum samples and sputum/blood cultures. The area under the curve (AUC) and a log-transformed threshold, which provides the maximal sensitivity and specificity, were calculated. Of 487 subjects enrolled, 129 were evaluable. Receiver operating characteristic curve analysis demonstrated an AUC of 0.87. Sensitivity and specificity were 90.0 percent and 80.0 percent, respectively; positive and negative predictive values were 58.7 percent and 96.2 percent, respectively. We have demonstrated that a quantitative rapid pneumolysin PCR assay has favorable accuracy for diagnosis of pneumococcal pneumonia in adult patients with CAP; this assay may be a useful diagnostic adjunct for clinicians, particularly those practicing in the acute-care setting, where rapid pathogen identification may assist in selection of the most appropriate antibiotics.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Microbiology (medical)