The SSS revolution in fungal diagnostics: speed, simplicity and sensitivity (2023)

Type of publication:
Journal article

*Baker, Jacob; Denning, David W.

British Medical Bulletin. 147(1):62-78, 2023 Sep 12.

INTRODUCTION: Fungal disease has historically presented a diagnostic challenge due to its often non-specific clinical presentations, relative infrequency and reliance on insensitive and time-intensive fungal culture. SOURCES OF DATA: We present the recent developments in fungal diagnostics in the fields of serological and molecular diagnosis for the most clinically relevant pathogens; developments that have the potential to revolutionize fungal diagnosis through improvements in speed, simplicity and sensitivity. We have drawn on a body of evidence including recent studies and reviews demonstrating the effectiveness of antigen and antibody detection and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) in patients with and without concurrent human immunodeficiency virus infection. AREAS OF AGREEMENT: This includes recently developed fungal lateral flow assays, which have a low cost and operator skill requirement that give them great applicability to low-resource settings. Antigen detection for Cryptococcus, Histoplasma and Aspergillus spp. are much more sensitive than culture. PCR for Candida spp., Aspergillus spp., Mucorales and Pneumocystis jirovecii is more sensitive than culture and usually faster. AREAS OF CONTROVERSY: Effort must be made to utilize recent developments in fungal diagnostics in clinical settings outside of specialist centres and integrate their use into standard medical practice. Given the clinical similarities of the conditions and frequent co-infection, further study is required into the use of serological and molecular fungal tests, particularly in patients being treated for tuberculosis. GROWING POINTS: Further study is needed to clarify the utility of these tests in low-resource settings confounded by a high prevalence of tuberculosis. AREAS TIMELY FOR DEVELOPING RESEARCH: The diagnostic utility of these tests may require revision of laboratory work flows, care pathways and clinical and lab coordination, especially for any facility caring for the immunosuppressed, critically ill or those with chronic chest conditions, in whom fungal disease is common and underappreciated.

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