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Ureaplasma urealyticum and U parvum have been associated with a number of clinically significant infections, although their clinical significance may not always be clear as they are part of the normal genital flora. U urealyticum and U parvum have been associated with urethritis and epididymitis. They may cause upper urinary tract infection and they have been associated with infected renal stones. U urealyticum and U parvum may be isolated from amniotic fluid of women with preterm labor, premature rupture of membranes, spontaneous term labor, or chorioamnionitis. They may also cause neonatal infections, including meningoencephalitis and pneumonia. In addition, U urealyticum and U parvum have been reported to cause unusual infections, such as prosthetic joint infection and infections in transplant recipients.
Recently, U urealyticum and U parvum have been found to cause hyperammonemia in lung transplant recipients.(1) In lung transplant recipients with hyperammonemia, the ideal diagnostic specimen is a lower respiratory specimen (eg, bronchoalveolar lavage fluid), although U urealyticum and U parvum may also be detected in blood. Treatment directed against these organisms has resulted in resolution of hyperammonemia.
Culture of Ureaplasma species is laborious, requiring a high degree of technical skill and taking several days. PCR detection is sensitive, specific, and provides same-day results. In addition, PCR allows the differentiation of U urealyticum and U parvum, which is not easily accomplished with culture. PCR assay has replaced conventional culture for U urealyticum and U parvum at Mayo Clinic Laboratories due to its speed and equivalent performance to culture.
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A positive PCR result for the presence of a specific sequence found within the Ureaplasma urealyticum and U parvum ureC gene indicates the presence of U urealyticum or U parvum DNA in the specimen.
A negative PCR result indicates the absence of detectable U urealyticum and U parvum DNA in the specimen, but does not rule-out infection as false-negative results may occur due to inhibition of PCR, sequence variability underlying the primers and probes, or the presence of U urealyticum or U parvum in quantities less than the limit of detection of the assay.