In a patient with positive serum serology for coccidioidomycosis, the differential diagnosis of concurrent pleural effusions can be challenging. We, therefore, sought to clarify the performance characteristics of biochemical, serologic, and nucleic-acid-based testing in an attempt to avoid invasive procedures. The utility of adenosine deaminase (ADA), coccidioidal serology, and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) in the evaluation of pleuropulmonary coccidioidomycosis has not been previously reported.
Forty consecutive patients evaluated for pleuropulmonary coccidioidomycosis were included. Demographic data, pleural fluid values, culture results, and clinical diagnoses were obtained from patient chart review. ADA testing was performed by ARUP Laboratories, coccidioidal serologic testing was performed by the University of California-Davis coccidioidomycosis serology laboratory, and PCR testing was performed by the Translational Genomics Research Institute using a previously published methodology.
Fifteen patients were diagnosed with pleuropulmonary coccidioidomycosis by European Organization for the Research and Treatment of Cancer/Mycoses Study Group criteria. Pleural fluid ADA concentrations were <40 IU/L in all patients (range, < 1.0-28.6 IU/L; median, 4.7). The sensitivity and specificity of coccidioidal serologic testing was 100% in this study. The specificity of PCR testing was high (100%), although the overall sensitivity remained low, and was comparable to the experience of others in the clinical use of PCR for coccidioidal diagnostics.
Contrary to prior speculation, ADA levels in pleuropulmonary coccidioidomycosis were not elevated in this study. The sensitivity and specificity of coccidioidal serologic testing in nonserum samples remained high, but the clinical usefulness of PCR testing in pleural fluid was disappointing and was comparable to pleural fluid culture.