Journal of clinical microbiology

Clinical Performance of Aspergillus PCR for Testing Serum and Plasma: a Study by the European Aspergillus PCR Initiative.

PMID 26085618


Aspergillus PCR testing of serum provides technical simplicity but with potentially reduced sensitivity compared to whole-blood testing. With diseases for which screening to exclude disease represents an optimal strategy, sensitivity is paramount. The associated analytical study confirmed that DNA concentrations were greater in plasma than those in serum. The aim of the current investigation was to confirm analytical findings by comparing the performance of Aspergillus PCR testing of plasma and serum in the clinical setting. Standardized Aspergillus PCR was performed on plasma and serum samples concurrently obtained from hematology patients in a multicenter retrospective anonymous case-control study, with cases diagnosed according to European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer/Invasive Fungal Infections Cooperative Group and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Mycoses Study Group (EORTC/MSG) consensus definitions (19 proven/probable cases and 42 controls). Clinical performance and clinical utility (time to positivity) were calculated for both kinds of samples. The sensitivity and specificity for Aspergillus PCR when testing serum were 68.4% and 76.2%, respectively, and for plasma, they were 94.7% and 83.3%, respectively. Eighty-five percent of serum and plasma PCR results were concordant. On average, plasma PCR was positive 16.8 days before diagnosis and was the earliest indicator of infection in 13 cases, combined with other biomarkers in five cases. On average, serum PCR was positive 10.8 days before diagnosis and was the earliest indicator of infection in six cases, combined with other biomarkers in three cases. These results confirm the analytical finding that the sensitivity of Aspergillus PCR using plasma is superior to that using serum. PCR positivity occurs earlier when testing plasma and provides sufficient sensitivity for the screening of invasive aspergillosis while maintaining methodological simplicity.