Evaluation of the polymerase chain reaction technique for the diagnosis of meningitis caused by Neisseria meningitidis and Haemophilus influenzae

Núria Margall, Mónica Majó, Fernando Sánchez, Carmen Roig, Cristina Latorre, Dionisia Fontanals, Ángela Domínguez, Eduardo Lobera, Isabel Sanfeliu, Guillermo Prats

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BACKGROUND: Bacterial meningitis is a severe infection of the central nervous system (CNS), most frequently caused by Neisseria meningitidis in our setting. Microbiologic diagnosis of bacterial meningitis is not enough sensitive because its efficiency can be affected by the therapeutic regime given to the patient. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) can provide a more sensitive diagnosis and allow us to get an earlier result. OBJECTIVES: To asses the sensitivity and specificity of a PCR technique for the diagnosis of meningitis caused by N. meningitidis and Haemophilus influenzae. MATERIAL AND METHODS: Ninety-six patients who were attended because of suspected bacterial meningitis on the Hospital de Sant Joan de Deu, Corporacio Sanitaria Parc Tauli and Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau, and had negative results by conventional laboratory methods, were selected for the study. A total of 99 cerebrospinal fluid samples (CSF) were obtained and evaluated for PCR. DNA extracts of the CSF samples were amplified by universal primers. Amplification products were hybridized with specific probes for Haemophilus genus and N. meningitidis. Positive and negative controls were included to asses the reliability of PCR. RESULTS: Eight of the 99 CSF samples (8%) were positive by PCR and subsequent hybridization with the specific probe of N. meningitidis. None of the amplicons hybridized with the probe of Haemophilus genus. Thirteen percent of the patients (8/59) with clinical suspicious of non-neonatal sepsis or meningitis were diagnosed by PCR, amongst them, 36% of the cases (4/11) with initial diagnosis of meningococcal sepsis or meningitis. CONCLUSIONS: The sensitivity and the specificity of the PCR technique afford a complementary method to conventional ones, in special for the diagnosis of meningococcal meningitis in the group of pediatric patients.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-8
JournalEnfermedades Infecciosas y Microbiologia Clinica
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1999


  • H.influenzae
  • Meningitis
  • PCR


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