Molecular diagnosis of CNS infections

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By K K Jain MD

Molecular diagnostics includes nucleic acid diagnostics, immunodiagnostics, and proteodiagnostics. Polymerase chain reaction is the basis of most of the kits that are available commercially for the diagnosis of various infectious diseases. The most important uses are in the diagnosis of viral infections of the central nervous system. This clinical article describes the advantages as well as limitations of molecular diagnostics for CNS infections. Standard laboratory techniques such as viral culture and serology provide only circumstantial or retrospective evidence of viral infections of the CNS. Polymerase chain reaction is now considered to be the first-line diagnostic test for viral CNS infections such as herpes encephalitis, enterovirus meningitis, and other viral infections occurring in HIV-infected persons.

Key Points

  • Molecular diagnostics is important for the rapid diagnosis of infections as the time required for traditional laboratory methods is too long for effective management.
  • Molecular diagnosis is possible from limited, small amounts of body fluids or tissues.
  • Molecular diagnosis provides more accurate diagnosis to guide treatment.
  • Technical refinements such as use of nanobiotechnology enable direct detection of single microorganisms without need for amplification.