The role of the polymerase chain reaction in the diagnosis of bacterial meningitis in Vietnam.
Freeman HR., Mai NT., Diep TS., Parry C., Hien TT., Farrar JJ.
Bacterial meningitis remains an important cause of morbidity and mortality in Vietnam. Diagnosis is hampered by the ready availability of antibiotics in the community, leading to late presentation, masked clinical signs, and poor organism detection during the microscopical examination and culture of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). In order to improve organism detection at the Hospital for Tropical Diseases in Ho Chi Minh City, a diagnostic PCR-based protocol was developed. This protocol was followed in the investigation of CSF samples from 36 patients with clinical signs of bacterial meningitis. Each sample was first tested in a semi-nested PCR using primers for the 16sRNA gene common to all bacteria. The products of this reaction were then amplified using a 16sru8 primer and primers specific for Neisseria meningitidis, Haemophilus influenzae or Streptococcus spp. The samples found positive for Streptococcus were further investigated in a nested PCR using primers specific for the pneumolysin gene of S. pneumoniae. The sensitivity of detection was increased from 36% with culture to 44% with PCR. Although the sample size was small, the results indicate that PCR would be a feasible and useful adjunct in the diagnosis of bacterial meningitis, particularly in areas where community antibiotic use is common.