Markers of bacteremia in febrile neutropenic patients with hematological malignancies: procalcitonin and IL-6 are more reliable than C-reactive protein

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Abstract

Since neutropenic patients with hematological malignancies are at high risk of contracting life-threatening infections, specific markers of infection are needed in cases of febrile neutropenia. The study presented here assessed serum concentrations of C-reactive protein (CRP), procalcitonin (PCT) and interleukin-6 (IL-6) in samples obtained from 31 febrile neutropenic patients. A total of 53 episodes were evaluated, and 18 of these were associated with positive blood culture results. Procalcitonin and IL-6 concentrations differed significantly between bacteremic and non-bacteremic episodes. Procalcitonin values were 0.22 ng/ml [interquartile range (IR), 0.15-1.9] for patients with pneumonia without bacteremia, 0.22 ng/ml (IR, 0.16-0.55) for patients with fever of unknown origin, 0.2 ng/ml (IR, 0.13-0.57) for patients with non-microbial fever and 1.8 ng/ml (IR, 0.35-5.3) for patients with bacteremia. The differences between bacteremic and non-bacteremic episodes had a P-value of 0.003 using the Mann-Whitney test. For IL-6 the median values were 301 pg/ml (IR, 152-1,879) for patients with pneumonia without bacteremia, 207 pg/ml (IR, 94-445) for patients with fever of unknown origin, 177 pg/ml (IR, 142-208) for patients with non-microbial fever and 942 pg/ml (IR, 181-2,807) for patients with bacteremia. Using the Mann-Whitney test, the differences between bacteremic and non-bacteremic episodes were P=0.006. No differences were found in CRP concentrations. Cutoff levels to distinguish between bacteremic and non-bacteremic episodes were chosen using receiver operating characteristic curves: 0.62 ng/ml for PCT and 297 pg/ml for IL-6. Negative predictive values were 84% for PCT and 70% for IL-6. The results indicate that PCT and IL-6 are more reliable markers than CRP for predicting bacteremia in patients with febrile neutropenia.

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