Aim: To evaluate and compare the utility of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) for the diagnosis of tuberculous effusions in children.
Methods: PCR, adenosine deaminase (ADA) activity and absolute lymphocyte count (ALC) were evaluated in the fluid of 31 tuberculous (20 pleural, 8 ascites and 3 pericardial) and 24 non-tuberculous (10 transudtative ascites, 8 empyema thoracis, 3 malignant pleural and 3 pyopericardium) effusions.
Results: Fluid PCR for Mycobacterium tuberculosis was positive in 74% of tuberculous effusions, whereas it was falsely positive in 13% of the non-tuberculous group. The mean fluid ADA and ALC values were significantly higher in tuberculous effusions than in non-tuberculous effusions (p<0.001). The sensitivity and specificity of PCR, ADA (⩾38 IU/l) and ALC (⩾275/mm3) were 74% and 88%, 81% and 75%, and 90% and 83%, respectively, in diagnosing tuberculous effusions. The sensitivity of PCR, ADA and ALC was 100%, 100% and 88%, respectively, for confirmed tuberculous effusions. When the two tests were combined (either/or positive), the sensitivity increased (90–100%) at the expense of specificity. When both the tests were positive, then the specificity markedly increased (92–96%), but sensitivity of the tests decreased.
Conclusion: Fluid PCR alone should not be relied on as a single test; rather, combined analysis with either ADA or ALC could be more useful in the diagnosis of tuberculous effusions in children.
- ADA, adenosine deaminase
- AFB, acid-fast bacillus
- ALC, absolute lymphocyte count
- BCG, Bacillus-Calmette Guerin
- PCR, polymerase chain reaction
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Published Online First 31 May 2006
Competing interests: None declared.
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