The clinical presentation of brucellosis in humans is variable and unspecific, and thus, laboratory corroboration of the diagnosis is essential for the patient’s proper treatment. The diagnosis of brucellar infections can be made by culture, serological tests, and nucleic acid amplification assays. Modern automated blood culture systems enable detection of acute cases of brucellosis within the routine 5- to 7-day incubation protocol employed in clinical microbiology laboratories, although a longer incubation and performance of blind subcultures may be needed for protracted cases. Serological tests, though they lack specificity and provide results that may be difficult to interpret in individuals repeatedly exposed to Brucella organisms, nevertheless remain a diagnostic cornerstone in resource-poor countries. Nucleic acid amplification assays combine exquisite sensitivity, specificity, and safety and enable rapid diagnosis of the disease. However, long-term persistence of positive molecular test results in patients that have apparently fully recovered is common and has unclear clinical significance and therapeutic implications. Therefore, as long as there are no sufficiently validated commercial tests or studies that demonstrate an adequate interlaboratory reproducibility of the different homemade PCR assays, cultures and serological methods will remain the primary tools for the diagnosis and posttherapeutic follow-up of human brucellosis.
- Human brucellosis
- Nucleic acid amplification methods
- Serological tests