Open Access

The role of rapid diagnostic tests in managing adults with pneumonia in low-resource settings


Received: 12 February 2014

Accepted: 15 May 2014

Published: 11 July 2014


In well-resourced settings the systematic use of rapid diagnostics tests (e.g. pneumococcal urinary antigen test) that define the causal pathogen to direct therapy has not resulted in significantly improved outcomes in adults withpneumonia. The management of pneumonia in many low-resource settings is complicated by a substantial burden of tuberculosis and HIV-associated opportunistic infections, in addition to the usual spectrum of pathogens seenin well-resourced settings. Clinical features alone do not reliably distinguish between these different aetiologiesand physicians often have to treat empirically. Given the limitations in diagnostic laboratory capability present inmost low-resource settings, rapid and point-of-care diagnostic tests could become valuable tools to guide treatment decisions. Pneumococcal and Legionella urinary antigen tests are specific and moderately sensitive, but their utilityin low-resource settings is uncertain. The Xpert MTB/RIF (Cepheid, USA) platform and rapid assays for urinary lipoarabinomannan can substantially speed up tuberculosis diagnosis; the current challenge is to translate this intoearlier treatment and hopefully improve patient outcome. In HIV-infected patients, 1-3-β-D-glucan is a serum marker of Pneumocystis jirovecii infection with excellent sensitivity. Further studies are needed to assess the clinical utilityand cost-effectiveness of these rapid diagnostic assays when they are incorporated into treatment algorithms.


BinaxNOW Streptococcus pneumoniae antigen cardlipoarabinomannanXpert MTB/RIF1-3-β-D-glucanpneumonia