Multiplex PCR to diagnose bloodstream infections in patients admitted from the emergency department with sepsis

Ephraim L. Tsalik, Daphne Jones, Bradly Nicholson, Lynette Waring, Oliver Liesenfeld, Lawrence P. Park, Seth W. Glickman, Lauren B. Caram, Raymond J. Langley, Jennifer C. Van Velkinburgh, Charles B. Cairns, Emanuel P. Rivers, Ronny M. Otero, Stephen F. Kingsmore, Tahaniyat Lalani, Vance G. Fowler, Christopher W. Woods

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

118 Scopus citations


Sepsis is caused by a heterogeneous group of infectious etiologies. Early diagnosis and the provision of appropriate antimicrobial therapy correlate with positive clinical outcomes. Current microbiological techniques are limited in their diagnostic capacities and timeliness. Multiplex PCR has the potential to rapidly identify bloodstream infections and fill this diagnostic gap. We identified patients from two large academic hospital emergency departments with suspected sepsis. The results of a multiplex PCR that could detect 25 bacterial and fungal pathogens were compared to those of blood culture. The results were analyzed with respect to the likelihood of infection, sepsis severity, the site of infection, and the effect of prior antibiotic therapy. We enrolled 306 subjects with suspected sepsis. Of these, 43 were later determined not to have infectious etiologies. Of the remaining 263 subjects, 70% had sepsis, 16% had severe sepsis, and 14% had septic shock. The majority had a definite infection (41.5%) or a probable infection (30.7%). Blood culture and PCR performed similarly with samples from patients with clinically defined infections (areas under the receiver operating characteristic curves, 0.64 and 0.60, respectively). However, blood culture identified more cases of septicemia than PCR among patients with an identified infectious etiology (66 and 46, respectively; P = 0.0004). The two tests performed similarly when the results were stratified by sepsis severity or infection site. Blood culture tended to detect infections more frequently among patients who had previously received antibiotics (P = 0.06). Conversely, PCR identified an additional 24 organisms that blood culture failed to detect. Real-time multiplex PCR has the potential to serve as an adjunct to conventional blood culture, adding diagnostic yield and shortening the time to pathogen identification.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)26-33
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Clinical Microbiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2010


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