In 2003-4 there was an increase in the rate of diagnosis of new cases of syphilis. In response to this situation the laboratory introduced a PCR assay for the detection of Treponema pallidum in genital ulcers. As of early 2004 the assay is undergoing validation.
In 2003 a project to develop a PCR assay to detect Legionella in respiratory specimens was completed; this assay is now performed on a routine basis. The assay identifies either the Legionella pneumophila group or Legionella species (other than pneumophila). This assay should allow the detection of Legionella in cases where antibiotic therapy has already been commenced and culture will be unlikely to yield a result.
Further research projects include the development of a PCR assay for detection of Pneumocystis carinii. Current detection methods rely on staining of processed specimen and are particularly labour intensive. Furthermore the sensitivity of the current assay is often compromised by the inadequacy of specimen volume.