Development and implementation of a customised rapid syndromic diagnostic test for severe pneumonia [version 3; peer review: 2 approved]

Vilas Navapurkar, Josefin Bartholdson Scott, Mailis Maes, Thomas P Hellyer, Ellen Higginson, Sally Forrest, Joana Pereira-Dias, Surendra Parmar, Emma Heasman-Hunt, Petra Polgarova, Joanne Brown, Lissamma Titti, William Pw Smith, Jonathan Scott, Anthony Rostron, Matthew Routledge, David Sapsford, M Estée Török, Ronan McMullan, David A EnochVanessa Wong, Martin D Curran, Nicholas M Brown, A John Simpson, Jurgen Herre, Gordon Dougan, Andrew Conway Morris, VAP-Rapid investigators

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Background: The diagnosis of pneumonia has been hampered by a reliance on bacterial cultures which take several days to return a result, and are frequently negative. In critically ill patients this leads to the use of empiric, broad-spectrum antimicrobials and compromises good antimicrobial stewardship. The objective of this study was to establish the performance of a syndromic molecular diagnostic approach, using a custom TaqMan array card (TAC) covering 52 respiratory pathogens, and assess its impact on antimicrobial prescribing.

Methods: The TAC was validated against a retrospective multi-centre cohort of broncho-alveolar lavage samples. The TAC was assessed prospectively in patients undergoing investigation for suspected pneumonia, with a comparator cohort formed of patients investigated when the TAC laboratory team were unavailable.
Co-primary outcomes were sensitivity compared to conventional microbiology and, for the prospective study, time to result. Metagenomic sequencing was performed to validate findings in prospective samples. Antibiotic free days (AFD) were compared between the study cohort and comparator group.

Results: 128 stored samples were tested, with sensitivity of 97% (95% confidence interval (CI) 88-100%). Prospectively, 95 patients were tested by TAC, with 71 forming the comparator group. TAC returned results 51 hours (interquartile range 41-69 hours) faster than culture and with sensitivity of 92% (95% CI 83-98%) compared to conventional microbiology. 94% of organisms identified by sequencing were detected by TAC. There was a significant difference in the distribution of AFDs with more AFDs in the TAC group (p=0.02). TAC group were more likely to experience antimicrobial de-escalation (odds ratio 2.9 (95%1.5-5.5)).

Conclusions: Implementation of a syndromic molecular diagnostic approach to pneumonia led to faster results, with high sensitivity and impact on antibiotic prescribing.
Original languageEnglish
Article number256
JournalWellcome open research
Early online date12 Oct 2022
Publication statusPublished - 12 Oct 2022

Bibliographical note

Copyright: © 2022 Navapurkar V et al.


  • Pneumonia
  • Molecular pathology
  • Critical Care
  • Antimicrobial stewardship


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