Direct detection technologies for pathogenic microorganisms are emerging to be applied in the diagnosis of serious bloodstream infections and infections at sterile body sites, as well as for quality control measures prior to the release of sterile blood products and to ascertain microbial safety of food. Standard blood cultures as the current gold standard for detection of bacteraemia/sepsis and other culture-based microbiological identification procedures are comparatively slow and have limited sensitivity for fastidious or slow-growing microorganisms. Rapid nucleic acid-based technologies with PCR amplification or hybridisation probes for specific pathogens, broad-range bacterial or fungal assays, flow cytometry, as well as protein-based characterisation by mass spectrometry, aim at identification of pathogenic microorganisms within minutes to hours. Interpretation of direct detection of panbacterial or panfungal nucleic acids instead of living microorganisms in blood is complex, given the risk of contamination, the ubiquitous presence of bacterial and fungal DNA, and the lack of a gold standard. Since many of the infections at sterile sites, particularly sepsis, are medical emergencies requiring immediate therapeutic responses, rapid technologies could contribute to reduction of morbidity, mortality, and of the economic burden. This review summarises the currently available data on rapid non-culture-based technologies and outlines the potential clinical usefulness in infectious disease diagnosis.
Clin Chem Lab Med 2008;46:888–908.
©2008 by Walter de Gruyter Berlin New York