Clinical Accuracy and Impact of Plasma Cell-Free DNA Fungal PCR Panel for Non-Invasive Diagnosis of Fungal Infection
February 19, 2021
Citation: Clin Infect Dis. 2021 Feb 19 [Epub ahead of print]

BACKGROUND Invasive fungal infection (IFI) is a growing cause of morbidity and mortality in oncology and transplant patients. Diagnosis of IFI is often delayed due to need for invasive biopsy and low sensitivity of conventional diagnostic methods. Fungal cell-free DNA (cfDNA) detection in plasma is a novel testing modality for the non-invasive diagnosis of IFI.
METHODS A novel bioinformatic pipeline was created to interrogate fungal genomes and identify multicopy sequences for cfDNA PCR targeting. A real-time PCR panel was developed for 12 genera and species most commonly causing IFI. Sensitivity and specificity of the fungal PCR panel were determined using plasma samples from patients with IFI and non-IFI controls. Clinical impact of fungal PCR panel was evaluated prospectively based on the treating team's interpretation of the results.
RESULTS Overall, the sensitivity and specificity were 56.5% (65/115, 95% confidence interval [CI], 47.4%-65.2%) and 99.5% (2064/2075; 95% CI, 99.0%-99.7%), respectively. In the subset of patients with an optimized plasma volume (2mL), sensitivity was 69.6% (48/69; 95% CI, 57.9%-79.2%). Sensitivity was 91.7% (11/12; 95% CI, 62.5%-100%) for detection of Mucorales agents, 56.3% (9/16; 95% CI, 33.2%-76.9%) for Aspergillus species, and 84.6% (11/13; 95% CI, 56.5%-96.9%) for Candida albicans. In a prospective evaluation of 226 patients with suspected IFI, cfDNA testing was positive in 47 (20.8%) patients and resulted in a positive impact on clinical management in 20/47 (42.6%).
CONCLUSIONS The fungal cfDNA PCR panel offers a non-invasive approach to early diagnosis of IFI, providing actionable results for personalized care.