What is the role of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing in the workup of viral meningitis?

Updated: Jul 17, 2018
  • Author: Cordia Wan, MD; Chief Editor: Niranjan N Singh, MBBS, MD, DM, FAHS, FAANEM  more...
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Real-time PCR testing for enterovirus was first cleared for marketing in 2007 by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and is now available through commercial laboratories. [9] Results are available in approximately 3 hours, as opposed to days to weeks in traditional PCR studies.

In clearing the test, the FDA cited a multicenter study in which 96% of patients who tested positive did have viral meningitis, and 97% of patients who tested negative did not have viral meningitis.

In a retrospective study of routine PCR testing of CSF for enterovirus—using a test with turnaround time of 23 hours—confirmation of enteroviral meningitis by PCR decreased the length of hospitalization and the duration of antibiotic use among infants aged 90 days or younger. [10]

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