Polymerase chain reaction in the detection of microbes in amniotic fluid.
Intra-amniotic infection during pregnancy can be caused by bacteria, viruses or protozoa, Toxoplasma gondii for example. Bacterial intrauterine infections are connected with premature birth, premature rupture of fetal membranes, and infective complications of both the mother and the newborn. Viral infections and Toxoplasma gondii can cause fetal malformations and illness with serious sequelae to the infant or fetal death in utero. Determining the causative agent is important and often greatly affects the prognosis of the newborn. Amniotic fluid is in most cases easily and safely obtainable during the second and third trimester and can be used in several microbiological assays. These include bacterial and viral cultures, Gram staining, quantitative assays for immunoglobulins or cytokines, and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) for detecting microbial DNA. This review concentrates on broad-spectrum or universal bacterial PCR for detection of bacterial DNA in amniotic fluid and on PCR assays for certain clinically important viruses and for Toxoplasma gondii.
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