Commercial Molecular Tests for Fungal Diagnosis from a Practical Point of View
The increasing interest in molecular diagnostics is a result of tremendously improved knowledge on fungal infections in the past 20 years and the rapid development of new methods, in particular polymerase chain reaction. High expectations have been placed on molecular diagnostics, and the number of laboratories now using the relevant technology is rapidly increasing—resulting in an obvious need for standardization and definition of laboratory organization. In the past 10 years, multiple new molecular tools were marketed for the detection of DNA, antibodies, cell wall components, or other antigens. In contrast to classical culture methods, molecular methods do not detect a viable organisms, but only molecules which indicate its presence; this can be nucleic acids, cell components (antigens), or antibodies (Fig. 1). In this chapter, an overview is provided on commercially available detection tools, their strength and how to use them. A main focus is laid on providing tips and tricks that make daily life easier. We try to focus and mention methodical details which are not highlighted in the manufacturer’s instructions of these test kits, but are based on our personal experience in the laboratory. Important to keep in mind is that molecular tools cannot replace culture, microscopy, or a critical view on patients’ clinical history, signs, and symptoms, but provide a valuable add on tool. Diagnosis should not be based solely on a molecular test, but molecular tools might deliver an important piece of information that helps matching the diagnostic puzzle to a diagnosis, in particular as few tests are in vitro diagnostic tests (IVD) or only part of the whole test carries the IVD certificate (e.g., DNA extraction is often not included). Please be aware that the authors do not claim to provide a complete overview on all commercially available diagnostic assays being currently marketed for fungal detection, as those are subject to constant change. A main focus is put on commonly used panfungal assays and pathogen-specific assays, including Aspergillus-specific, Candida-specific, Cryptococcus specific, Histoplasma-specific, and Pneumocystis-specific assays. Assays are categorized according to their underlying principle in either antigen-detecting or antibody-detecting or DNA-detecting (Fig. 1). Other non-DNA-detecting nucleic acid methods such as FISH and PNA FISH are not summarized in this chapter and an overview on test performance, common false positives, and the clinical evaluation of commercial tests in studies is provided already in a previous book series by Javier Yugueros Marcos and David H. Pincus (Marcos and Pincus, Methods Mol Biol 968:25–54, 2013).
Key wordsReal-time PCR Rt-PCR Polymerase chain reaction ELISA Antigen test Antibody test Candida Aspergillus Cryptococcus Fungi Pneumocystis
We are thankful to the tips and tricks and remarks provided by staff of molecular routine laboratory Alexander Engl, Michaela Mayer, Raphaela Löffler, and Wolfgang Mutschlechner.
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