Background: Community-acquired pneumonia (CAP) has high morbidity and mortality. Unfortunately, the pathogen detection rate using conventional culture methods is relatively low. We compared comprehensive real-time polymerase chain reaction (real-time PCR) analysis of nasopharyngeal swab specimens (NPS) and sputum samples against conventional methods for ability to detect causative pathogens of CAP. Methods: We prospectively enrolled adult CAP patients, including those with prior antibiotic use, from December 2012 to May 2014. For each patient, causative pathogens were investigated conventionally and by real-time PCR that can identify 6 bacterial and 11 viral pathogens. Results: Patients numbered 92 (mean age, 63 years; 59 male), including 30 (33%) with prior antibiotic use. Considering all patients, identification of causative pathogens by real-time PCR was significantly more frequent than by conventional methods in all patients (72% vs. 57%, p = 0.018). In patients with prior antibiotic use, identification rates also differed significantly (PCR, 77%; conventional, 50%; p = 0.027). Mixed infections were more frequent according to real-time PCR than conventional methods (26% vs. 4%, p < 0.001). By the real-time PCR, Streptococcus pneumoniae was most frequently identified (38%) as a causative pathogen, followed by Haemophilus influenzae (37%) and Mycoplasma pneumoniae (5%). PCR also identified viral pathogens (21%), with sensitivity enhanced by simultaneous examination of both NPS and sputum samples rather than only NPS samples. Conclusions: Real-time PCR of NPS and sputum samples could better identify bacterial and viral pathogens in CAP than conventional methods, both overall and in patients with prior antibiotic treatment.
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