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Commentary |

Rapid Diagnostic Testing for Community-Acquired Pneumonia: Can Innovative Technology for Clinical Microbiology Be Exploited?

Victor L. Yu, MD; Janet E. Stout, PhD
Author and Funding Information

Affiliations: From the University of Pittsburgh and Special Pathogens Laboratory, Pittsburgh, PA.

Correspondence to: Victor L. Yu, MD, Special Pathogens Laboratory, 1401 Forbes Ave, Suite 207, Pittsburgh, PA 15219; e-mail: vly@pitt.edu


Reproduction of this article is prohibited without written permission from the American College of Chest Physicians (www.chestjournal.org/site/misc/reprints.xhtml).


© 2009 American College of Chest Physicians


Chest. 2009;136(6):1618-1621. doi:10.1378/chest.09-0939
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Two nonsynchronous events have affected the management of community-acquired pneumonia (CAP): spiraling empiricism for CAP and the “golden era” of clinical microbiology. The development of broad-spectrum antibiotics has led to widespread empiric use without ascertaining the etiology of the infecting microbe. Unfortunately, this approach clashes with the second event, which is the advent of molecular-based microbiology that can identify the causative pathogen rapidly at the point of care. The urinary antigen is a most effective rapid test that has allowed targeted therapy for Legionnaire disease at the point of care. The high specificity (> 90%) allows the clinician to administer appropriate anti-Legionella therapy based on a single rapid test; however, its low sensitivity (76%) means that a notable number of cases of Legionnaire disease will go undiagnosed if other tests, especially culture, are not performed. Further, culture for Legionella is not readily available. If a culture is not performed, epidemiologic identification of the source of the bacterium cannot be ascertained by molecular fingerprinting of the patient and the putative source strain. We recommend resurrection of the basic principles of infectious disease, which are to identify the microbial etiology of the infection and to use narrow, targeted antimicrobial therapy. To reduce antimicrobial overuse with subsequent antimicrobial resistance, these basic principles must be applied in concert with traditional and newer tests in the clinical microbiology laboratory.


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