RESEARCH SUPPORT, NON-U.S. GOV'T
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Clinical impact of RT-PCR for pediatric acute respiratory infections: a controlled clinical trial.

Pediatrics 2011 November
OBJECTIVE: Real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) testing is a quick sensitive method for detecting respiratory pathogens. We evaluated the diagnostic yield of RT-PCR assays and measured the effect of rapid reporting on patient care.

METHODS: In a controlled clinical trial, nasal wash specimens were obtained from patients <12 years of age with suspected acute respiratory infections. In addition to the standard hospital protocol, RT-PCR assays for 17 pathogens were performed. The RT-PCR results were communicated to the clinicians within 12 to 36 hours in the intervention group and after 4 weeks in the control group.

RESULTS: A total of 583 patients were included (mean age: 8.1 months [range: 0-107.5 months]): 298 in the intervention group and 285 in the control group. Eighty-two percent of nasal wash specimens tested positive for ≥1 pathogen. Respiratory syncytial virus was the most frequently encountered (55%) pathogen. There were no significant differences between the groups with respect to hospital admissions (intervention group: 223 admissions; control group: 211 admissions; P = .825), length of hospital stay (mean ± SD: 3.68 ± 2.68 days [intervention group] and 3.96 ± 2.67 days [control group]; P = .178), or duration of antibiotic use (mean ± SD: 6.52 ± 2.15 days [intervention group] and 6.97 ± 2.86 days [control group]; P = .490), when antibiotic treatment had been initiated.

CONCLUSIONS: RT-PCR testing has a high yield of viral diagnoses, but rapid communication does not lead to decreases in hospital admissions, shorter hospital stays, or less antibiotic use for children with acute respiratory infections.

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