Genetic innovations for pneumonia diagnosis in children

Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) could help diagnose Mycoplasmia pneumonia (MP) infection in children, researchers say.

Lin Zou (Chongqing International Science and Technology Cooperation Center for Child Development and Disorders, China) and colleagues retrospectively analyzed 12,025 hospitalized children with respiratory infection using serology and PCR.

They found that 2433 (20.23%) children had MP infection, and that the presence of sore throat and pharyngitis was particular to MP infection.

Children aged 1?3 years were a significant 1.40 times more likely to have MP infection than those less than a year old, while children aged 3?6 years were a significant 2.76 times more likely. Children over the age of 6 years were 1.71 times more likely than those under 1 year to have MP infection.

Further analysis revealed that the positive percentage of MP-DNA was significantly higher than that of MP-immunoglobulin (Ig)M in children less than a year old and those aged 1?3 years. There was no significant difference in the DNA- and IgM-positive rates between children aged 3?6 years and those aged over 6 years, suggesting that PCR may be a preferred molecular method for MP infection diagnosis, particularly in children under 3 years of age, the researchers write.

The presence of the P1 gene, the key adhesion gene in MP infection, on PCR was significantly more common in children with MP infection, at 84.0%, than in those with other pathogens, at 11.8%.

There was a significant difference in the positive rate of the P1 gene between children with MP infection and those infected with other pathogens, but there was no marked difference between either group in the positive rate of the P30 and P116 genes, which are also associated with MP adhesion.

Moreover, although minor changes were observed in the positive rate of the P1 gene across different age groups, these were not statistically significant, note the authors. Taken together, the findings for P1 imply that it plays an important role in the pathogenesis of MP, and may be used as a target for MP infection, they suggest.

"This study contributes to better understanding the incidence, clinical, and laboratory characteristics of MP infection in the pediatric population," write Zou et al in Diagnostic Microbiology and Infectious Disease. "The P1 adhesion gene could be useful as a target for the development of realtime PCR assay for MP detection."

The authors conclude: "Further studies are needed to improve the technique for detecting MP rapidly and specifically in clinical specimens, and more work is required to create a surveillance or reporting system for MP infection."

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