Diagnosis of fungal infection: new technologies for the mycology laboratory.
The dramatic increase in nosocomial invasive mycoses over the past two decades has led to increased interest in the area of antifungal development. Unfortunately, the infusion of new diagnostic technology into the clinical mycology laboratory has lagged behind. Although newer, automated, continuous-monitoring blood culture systems are as sensitive as the older, manual "gold standard" system, the recovery of fungi from blood, as well as other clinical specimens, remains an insensitive marker for invasive fungal infection. Antigen assays for the rapid diagnosis of invasive fungal infections are in development, and galactomannan and glucan are two such promising antigens. Glucan may be present in the blood of patients with infection secondary to a wide variety of fungal pathogens, including Candida, Aspergillus, Fusarium, Saccharomyces, Trichosporon and Acremonium species. Early data suggest galactomannan may be present in the blood in detectable levels very early in the course of invasive aspergillosis. The galactomannan assay currently undergoing evaluations may actually be positive prior to the clinical suspicion for infection and may be useful in monitoring therapeutic response as well; however, the etiology of false-positive results following cytotoxic chemotherapy still has to be elucidated. PCR assays are also being developed in the research laboratory, however, the PCR assays will require a significant amount of adaptation and validation before they are ready for clinical care. Well-planned studies to evaluate the performance characteristics as well as appropriate clinical and cost-effective application of these new tests are needed.
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