Molecular analysis improves pathogen identification and epidemiologic study of pediatric parapneumonic empyema

Anne J. Blaschke, Caroline Heyrend, Carrie L. Byington, Ignacio Obando, Isabel Vazquez-Barba, Elizabeth H. Doby, E. Kent Korgenski, Xiaoming Sheng, Mark A. Poritz, Judy A. Daly, Edward O. Mason, Andrew T. Pavia, Krow Ampofo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

107 Scopus citations


Background: Parapneumonic empyema (PPE) is an increasingly common complication of bacterial pneumonia. Epidemiologic study is complicated by the low frequency of positive cultures. We sought to describe the epidemiology of PPE in children using molecular analysis of pleural fluid. Methods: We performed molecular testing for bacterial pathogens using archived pleural fluid from children hospitalized in 2009 with PPE. Real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to detect Streptococcus pneumoniae, Staphylococcus aureus (including methicillin-resistant), Streptococcus pyogenes, Haemophilus influenzae, and Mycoplasma pneumoniae as well as PCR-based serotyping of S. pneumoniae was performed. Demographic, laboratory, and microbiologic data were abstracted. Results: Pleural fluid specimens from 63 children were available for PCR. By culture, a pathogen was isolated from blood and/or pleural fluid in 22 (35%) patients, with S. pneumoniae in 15 (24%), S. pyogenes in 3 (5%), and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus in 4 (6%). By PCR, a pathogen was detected in 53 (84%), including S. pneumoniae in 45 (71%). Compared with culture, PCR testing significantly increased detection of any pathogen (35% vs. 84%; P < 0.001) and of S. pneumoniae (24% vs. 71%; P < 0.001). Serotype 7F was the most common pneumococcal serotype detected. Comparison of culture-negative to culture-positive disease showed differences in both the pathogen profile and clinical outcomes. Conclusions: Molecular analysis of pleural fluid more than doubled the detection of pathogens causing PPE. S. pneumoniae was the most common cause of both culture-positive and culture-negative PPE, although serotype distribution and outcomes differed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)289-294
Number of pages6
JournalPediatric Infectious Disease Journal
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2011


  • Bacterial complications
  • Epidemiology
  • Molecular diagnostics
  • Pneumococcal empyema
  • Pneumonia
  • Polymerase chain reaction (PCR)
  • Streptococcus pneumoniae

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Infectious Diseases
  • Microbiology (medical)


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