Use of procalcitonin for the prediction and treatment of acute bacterial infection in children

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Purpose of review

Procalcitonin (PCT) is increasingly utilized to determine the presence of infection or to guide antibiotic therapy. This review will highlight the diagnostic and prognostic utility of serum PCT in children.

Recent findings

Recent studies endorse the use of serum PCT to detect invasive infection, to differentiate sepsis from noninfectious systemic inflammatory response syndrome, and to guide antibiotic therapy. Typical values for maximal sensitivity and specificity are less than 0.5 ng/ml for noninfectious inflammation and greater than 2.0 ng/ml for bacterial sepsis. PCT appears to be a reliable indicator of infection. PCT has performed better than C-reactive protein in some settings, though pediatric comparative data are lacking. PCT may aid in diagnosing infection in challenging patient populations such as those with sickle cell disease, congenital heart defects, neutropenia, and indwelling central venous catheters. Antibiotic therapy tailored to serial PCT measurements may shorten the antibiotic exposure without increasing treatment failure.


PCT is a reliable serum marker for determining the presence or absence of invasive bacterial infection and response to antibiotic therapy. Tailoring antibiotics to PCT levels may reduce the duration of therapy without increasing treatment failure, but more research is needed in children.

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