Bacteriological confirmation of tuberculous (TB) meningitis is difficult. Culture is slow and microscopy has insufficient sensitivity. We evaluated real time PCR targeting insertion sequence IS6110 among 230 consecutive adult patients with subacute meningitis in a referral hospital in Indonesia.
Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) samples were examined using microscopy, solid and liquid culture, and real time IS6110-PCR with a fluorescence-labeled probe using DNA extracted from CSF. CSF samples from 40 non-infectious neurology patients were used as negative controls. IS6110-PCR results were linked with clinical and CSF characteristics.
Most patients presented with subacute meningitis, after a median of 14 days of symptoms (range 7-30). After exclusion of cryptococcal and bacterial meningitis, 207 patients were classified as definite or probable TB meningitis; 17.9% with HIV infection. Among this group IS6110-PCR gave the highest positivity rate (68%, 95% CI 62-74%) compared with microscopy of ZN-stained slides (11%, 95% CI 7-15%), and mycobacterial culture using solid (36%, 95% CI 29-42%) and liquid (44%, 95% CI 37-51%) media. IS6110-PCR was positive in 92% of patients with culture-positive and 42% of patients with culture-negative probable TB meningitis. Among culture-negative patients, a positive PCR was associated with a history of TB treatment, a longer duration of illness, a higher CSF cell count and protein, and a lower CSF glucose. IS6110-PCR was negative in all CSF samples from non-meningitis control patients.
Real time IS6110-PCR is a quick, sensitive, and specific test for diagnosing of TB meningitis in this setting. Its performance in other (less-developed) settings needs further study.