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Original article

Vol. 144 No. 0506 (2014)

Incremental value of multiplex real-time PCR for the early diagnosis of sepsis in the emergency department

  • Nora Schaub
  • Tujana Boldanova
  • Markus Noveanu
  • Nisha Arenja
  • Heinz Hermann
  • Raphael Twerenbold
  • Reno Frei
  • Roland Bingisser
  • Andrej Trampuz
  • Christian Müller
Cite this as:
Swiss Med Wkly. 2014;144:w13911


BACKGROUND: Delayed recognition of sepsis and inappropriate initial antibiotic therapy are associated with increased mortality and morbidity. The early detection of the causative organism in sepsis is an unmet clinical need. A novel multiplex real-time polymerase chain reaction (MRT-PCR) (SeptiFast ®) technique may provide the microbiological diagnosis within six hours.

METHODS: We assessed the diagnostic accuracy of blood cultures and MRT-PCR in a comparative diagnostic cohort study in 110 consecutive adult patients presenting to the emergency department (ED) with suspected sepsis.

RESULTS: We collected 205 corresponding PCR samples and blood culture (BC) pairs from the 110 patients. There was moderate to high concordance between PCR and BC with 181 (88%) matching and 24 (12%) mismatching samples. The diagnostic accuracy of MRT-PCR in detecting sepsis and its causative organism was comparable to that of BCs. The additional use of MRT-PCR significantly reduced the time to microbiological diagnosis as compared to the use of conventional microbiological methods alone (mean time gained 3.9 hours, range 0–66 hours, p <0.001).

CONCLUSION: Diagnostic accuracy of BCs and MRT-PCR in the early diagnosis of sepsis and its causative organism in the ED are comparable. However, MRT-PCR reduces the time to microbiological diagnosis. Whether a more rapid detection of the organism by MRT-PCR could improve the outcome of patients has to be assessed in large prospective randomised trials.


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