In critically ill patients with pneumonia, accurate microorganism identification allows appropriate antibiotic treatment. In patients undergoing bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL), direct examination of the fluid using Gram staining provides prompt information but pathogen identification accuracy is low. Culture of BAL fluid is actually the reference, but it is not available before 24 to 48 h. In addition, pathogen identification rate observed with direct examination and culture is decreased when antibiotic therapy has been given prior to sampling. We therefore assessed, in critically ill patients with suspected pneumonia, the performance of a multiplex PCR (MPCR) to identify pathogens in BAL fluid. This study is a prospective pilot observation.
We used a MPCR detecting 20 types of microorganisms. Direct examination, culture, and MPCR were performed on BAL fluid of critically ill patients with pneumonia suspicion. The final diagnosis of infective pneumonia was retained after the medical chart was reviewed by two experts. Pathogen identification rate of direct examination, culture, and MPCR in patients with confirmed pneumonia was compared.
Among the 65 patients with pneumonia suspicion, the diagnosis of pneumonia was finally retained in 53 cases. Twenty nine (55%) were community-acquired pneumonia and 24 (45%) were hospital acquired. Pathogen identification rate with MPCR (66%) was greater than with culture (40%) and direct examination (23%) (p =0.01 and p <0.001, respectively). When considering only the microorganisms included in the MPCR panel, the pathogen identification rate provided by MPCR reached 82% and was still higher than with culture (35%, p <0.001) and direct examination (21%, p <0.001). Pathogen identification rate provided by MPCR was not modified in the case of previous antibiotic treatment (66% vs. 64%, NS) and was still better than with culture (23%, p <0.001).
The results of this pilot study suggest that in critically ill patients, MPCR performed on BAL fluid could provide higher identification rate of pathogens involved in pneumonia than direct examination and culture, especially in patients having received antimicrobial treatment.