Duration of fever and markers of serious bacterial infection inyoung febrile children

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Despite the drastic change in the evaluation of the febrile young child due to the decreased incidence of serious bacterial infections (SBI) effected by Haemophilus influenza type B and pneumococcal vaccine, there remains a small role for blood work in the evaluation of these patients. Bacterial markers including white blood cell (WBC) count, absolute neutrophil count (ANC) and C-reactive protein (CRP) have been studied and are widely used as predictors of SBI in febrile children. It has been suggested that CRP values should be interpreted cautiously when fever has been present <12 h based on the kinetics of this biological marker. This limitation has not been previously addressed with CRP, nor was it described with other markers, specifically WBC and ANC, therefore the purpose of the present paper was to assess WBC, ANC and CRP values as predictors of SBI in relation to duration of fever.


Patients who presented to a pediatric emergency department between the ages of 1 and 36 months, with fever ≥39°C and no source of infection had a complete blood count (CBC) blood culture, and CRP level drawn. A urinalysis and/or urine culture was obtained when age and gender appropriate. A chest X-ray was performed at the discretion of the treating physician. The study subjects were enrolled prospectively and then divided into two groups based on duration of fever of ≤ or >12 h, and compared.


One hundred and twenty-eight patients were originally enrolled. Nine patients were excluded. Seventeen patients (14%) had SBI. One patient (<1%) had bacteremia, three (3%) had pneumonia, and 13 (10%) had urinary tract infections. Forty-five patients presented with fever ≤12 h and 74 patients presented with fever >12 h. Area under the curve (AUC) for WBC, ANC and CRP was significantly larger in patients with SBI presenting with fever >12 h (0.85, 0.83, 0.92 respectively) compared to patients with SBI who presented with fever for <12 h (0.37, 0.42, 0.68 respectively).


Bacterial markers studied were more predictive of SBI if the duration of fever was >12 h as shown by the AUC. CRP performed better than WBC and ANC in both scenarios.

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