Development and Evaluation of a Fully Automated Molecular Assay Targeting the Mitochondrial Small Subunit rRNA Gene for the Detection of Pneumocystis jirovecii in Bronchoalveolar Lavage Fluid Specimens.J Mol Diagn. 2020 12; 22(12):1482-1493.JM
The fungal pathogen Pneumocystis jirovecii causes Pneumocystis pneumonia. Although the mitochondrial large subunit rRNA gene (mtLSU) is commonly used as a PCR target, a mitochondrial small subunit rRNA gene (mtSSU)-targeted MultiCode PCR assay was developed on the fully automated ARIES platform for detection of P. jirovecii in bronchoalveolar lavage fluid specimens in 2.5 hours. The assay showed a limit of detection of 800 copies/mL (approximately equal to 22 organisms/mL), with no cross-reactivity with other respiratory pathogens. Compared with the reference Pneumocystis-specific direct fluorescent antibody assay (DFA) and mtLSU-targeted PCR assay, the new assay demonstrated sensitivity of 96.9% (31/32) and specificity of 94.6% (139/147) in detecting P. jirovecii in 180 clinical bronchoalveolar lavage fluid specimens. This assay was concordant with all DFA-positive samples and all but one mtLSU PCR-positive sample, and detected eight positive samples that were negative by DFA and mtLSU PCR. Receiver operating characteristic curve analysis revealed an area under the curve of 0.98 and a threshold cycle (CT) cutoff of 39.1 with sensitivity of 90.9% and specificity of 99.3%. The detection of 39.1 <CT < 40.0 indicates the presence of a low load of the organism and needs further determination of either colonization or probable/possible Pneumocystis pneumonia. Overall, the new assay demonstrates excellent analytical and clinical performance and may be more sensitive than mtLSU PCR target for the detection of P. jirovecii.