The role of panfungal polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assays for diagnosis of invasive fungal disease (IFD) is inadequately defined. We describe the use of an internal transcribed spacer 1 (ITS-1) region-directed panfungal PCR in this context at a tertiary referral transplant center. A retrospective review of patients at Alfred Health, Melbourne, Australia (2009–2014) who had clinical samples referred for panfungal PCR testing was conducted. Baseline patient characteristics, antifungal drug history, fungal culture/histopathology, and radiology results were recorded. For bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) fluid samples, identification of a fungus other than a Candida spp. was defined as a potential pathogen.
Of 138 panfungal PCR tests (108 patients), 41 (30%) were positive for a fungal product. Ninety-seven percent (134/138) of specimens were from immunocompromised hosts. Thirteen percent (19/138) of panfungal PCR positive results were for potential pathogens and potential pathogens were detected more frequently in tissue as compared with BAL (12/13 vs. 6/26; P = .0001). No positive panfungal PCR results were obtained from CSF specimens. If histopathology examination was negative, panfungal PCR identified a potential pathogen in only 12% (11/94) of specimens. For the 20 culture negative/histopathology positive specimens, diagnosis of IFD to causative species level by panfungal PCR occurred in 35% (6/20).
Sterile site specimens, in particular tissue, were more frequently panfungal PCR positive for potential pathogens than BAL. The utility of panfungal PCR appears greatest in tissue specimens, as an adjunct to histopathology to improve diagnostic sensitivity and specificity. Based on the results of this study we are now only testing tissue specimens by panfungal PCR.