Impact of diagnostic markers on early antifungal therapy

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Purpose of reviewThe early treatment of invasive fungal infection is critical but is hampered by the non-specific nature of clinical and radiological signs and the insensitivity of current laboratory diagnostic methods. If mortality due to invasive fungal infection is to be reduced, new, preemptive therapeutic strategies, targeting those patients at highest risk, are required and these will depend on the development of rapid, sensitive diagnostic methods. Such methods have become available in the form of high-resolution computed tomography scanning and serological and molecular techniques and in this review the authors describe recent studies assessing the utility of these methods and consider their role in management strategies.Recent findingsSensitive assays for the detection of fungal DNA and antigens such as galactomannan and glucan have been prospectively evaluated in the clinical setting and enable identification of patients at an earlier stage of infection. However, the sensitivity and specificity of the assays vary considerably in different studies, depending on several factors including patient selection and clinical application of the test, and issues regarding the release and circulation of galactomannan and fungal DNA remain to be clarified.SummaryRapid serological and molecular diagnostic methods facilitate the early diagnosis of invasive fungal infection and would appear to be most useful when used prospectively to screen high-risk patients. However, in order to determine the optimal approach to treatment it is essential that these tests are incorporated into management strategies and their impact on incidence of invasive fungal infection and clinical outcome evaluated in further clinical trials.

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