Potential clinical utility of polymerase chain reaction in microbiological testing for sepsis

Lutz Eric Lehmann, Julian Alvarez, Klaus Peter Hunfeld, Antonio Goglio, Gerald J Kost, Richard F. Louie, Annibale Raglio, Benito J. Regueiro, Heimo Wissing, Frank Stüber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

62 Scopus citations


Objective: To evaluate the potential improvement of antimicrobial treatment by utilizing a new multiplex polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assay that identifies sepsis-relevant microorganisms in blood. Design: Prospective, observational international multicentered trial. Setting: University hospitals in Germany (n = 2), Spain (n = 1), and the United States (n = 1), and one Italian tertiary general hospital. Patients: 436 sepsis patients with 467 episodes of antimicrobial treatment. METHODS: Whole blood for PCR and blood culture (BC) analysis was sampled independently for each episode. The potential impact of reporting microorganisms by PCR on adequacy and timeliness of antimicrobial therapy was analyzed. The number of gainable days on early adequate antimicrobial treatment attributable to PCR findings was assessed. Measurements and main results: Sepsis criteria, days on antimicrobial therapy, antimicrobial substances administered, and microorganisms identified by PCR and BC susceptibility tests. RESULTS: BC diagnosed 117 clinically relevant microorganisms; PCR identified 154. Ninety-nine episodes were BC positive (BC+); 131 episodes were PCR positive (PCR+). Overall, 127.8 days of clinically inadequate empirical antibiotic treatment in the 99 BC+ episodes were observed. Utilization of PCR-aided diagnostics calculates to a potential reduction of 106.5 clinically inadequate treatment days. The ratio of gainable early adequate treatment days to number of PCR tests done is 22.8 days/100 tests overall (confidence interval 15-31) and 36.4 days/100 tests in the intensive care and surgical ward populations (confidence interval 22-51). Conclusions: Rapid PCR identification of microorganisms may contribute to a reduction of early inadequate antibiotic treatment in sepsis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3085-3090
Number of pages6
JournalCritical Care Medicine
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2009


  • Adequate treatment
  • Gainable days
  • Inadequate antimicrobials
  • Rapid pathogen detection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine


Dive into the research topics of 'Potential clinical utility of polymerase chain reaction in microbiological testing for sepsis'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this