High Diagnostic Value of a New Real-Time Pneumocystis PCR from Bronchoalveolar Lavage in a Real-Life Clinical Setting

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To diagnose Pneumocystis jirovecii pneumonia (PCP), PCR testing in bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) fluid has recently become an alternative to immunofluorescence testing (IFT); however, its diagnostic accuracy is less clear.


To analyze the diagnostic value of a new semiquantitative real-time PCR (RT-PCR) in BAL in a real-life clinical setting.


Retrospective analysis of all RT-PCR results [semiquantitative: negative, weakly positive, and strongly positive; measured in cycle thresholds (Ct)] in BAL in the period between 2010 and 2014. The diagnosis of PCP was defined by clinical, radiological, and laboratory signs and by treatment initiation. Any positive PCR was compared with subsequent IFT.


Of 128 patient samples, 32 had PCP. There is a relevant correlation of high significance between positive PCR Ct and IFT (r = -0.7781, p < 0.001), which amounts to about 60% of the variance. Sensitivity, specificity, and positive predictive values (PPV) of any positive RT-PCR were 100, 80, and 63%, respectively. No patient with negative RT-PCR had PCP. Specificity and PPV are 100% in strongly positive RT-PCR, whereas they decrease to 80 and 21% in weakly positive RT-PCR.


A negative RT-PCR (Ct >45) rules out PCP. A strongly positive PCR (Ct <31.5) confirms PCP. In these cases, the diagnostic value of the new method is at least equal to the IFT. A weakly positive PCR probably represents pneumocystis colonization and can occur under PCP treatment.

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