Objective – The aim of this review is to describe and evaluate both conventional and molecular diagnostic testing utilized in dogs and cats with acute neurologic diseases. Various types of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) are explored along with novel molecular diagnostic testing that ultimately may prove useful in the critical care setting.
Data Sources – PUBMED was searched to obtain relevant references material using keywords: ‘canine OR feline meningitis AND meningoencephalitis,’‘feline infectious peritonitis,’‘canine distemper,’‘canine OR feline AND toxoplasma,’‘canine neospora,’‘canine OR feline AND rickettsia,’‘granulomatous meningoencephalitis,’‘steroid responsive meningitis arteritis,’‘necrotizing encephalitis,’‘novel neurodiagnostics,’‘canine OR feline AND CNS borrelia,’‘canine OR feline AND CNS bartonella,’‘canine OR feline AND CNS fungal,’‘nested OR multiplex OR degenerate OR consensus OR CODEHOP AND PCR.’ Research findings from the authors' laboratory and current veterinary textbooks also were utilized.
Human Data Synthesis – Molecular diagnostic testing including conventional, real-time, and consensus and degenerate PCR and microarray analysis are utilized routinely for the antemortem diagnosis of infectious meningoencephalitis (ME) in humans. Recently, PCR using consensus degenerate hybrid primers (CODEHOP) has been used to identify and characterize a number of novel human viruses.
Veterinary Data Synthesis – Molecular diagnostic testing such as conventional and real-time PCR aid in the diagnosis of several important central nervous system infectious agents including canine distemper virus, Toxoplasma gondii, Neospora caninum, rickettsial species, and others. Recently, broadly reactive consensus and degenerate PCR reactions have been applied to canine ME including assays for rickettsial organisms, Borrelia spp. and Bartonella spp., and various viral families.
Conclusions – In the acute neurologic patient, there are several key infectious diseases that can be pursued by a combination of conventional and molecular diagnostic testing. It is important that the clinician understands the utility, as well as the limitations, of the various neurodiagnostic tests that are available.