Although pneumonia is easily diagnosed, determining the causative agent is difficult due to low pathogen detection rates. We performed a prospective observational study to evaluate the utility of measuring inflammatory cytokine levels to discriminate between pneumonia caused by typical bacteria, respiratory syncytial virus, or Mycoplasma pneumoniae in a pediatric population.Design:
Serum inflammatory cytokine levels at early stages of the disease were evaluated for pneumonia caused by the three different pathogenic microorganisms.Setting:
The Children’s Hospital of Zhejiang University School of Medicine, China.Patients:
One hundred sixty-six patients with bacterial pneumonia, 182 with M. pneumonia, and 167 with respiratory syncytial virus pneumonia.Measurements and Main Results:
The levels of interleukin-6 for pneumonia were significantly higher with typical bacteria than with either Mycoplasma pneumoniae or respiratory syncytial virus (p < 0.001). The area under the curve for serum concentrations of interleukin-6 was 0.997. A serum interleukin-6 level of greater than or equal to 93.0 pg/mL had 100.0% sensitivity and 99.14% specificity in discriminating bacterial pneumonia from respiratory syncytial virus pneumonia and Mycoplasma pneumoniae pneumonia. The interleukin-6 levels were higher in patients with Mycoplasma pneumoniae pneumonia than in those with respiratory syncytial virus pneumonia (p < 0.001). They also simultaneously had lower interleukin-10 levels than patients with respiratory syncytial virus pneumonia who had interleukin-10 levels comparable to those of patients with bacterial pneumonia, indicating a significant difference in the interleukin-6/interleukin-10 ratio between patients with Mycoplasma pneumoniae pneumonia and respiratory syncytial virus pneumonia (median interleukin-6/interleukin-10 ratio, 2.5 vs 0.5; p < 0.001). At an optimal cut-off value of 0.8, the interleukin-6/interleukin-10 ratio showed 90.3% sensitivity and 88.0% specificity.Conclusions:
These results suggest that interleukin-6 is a good biomarker for identifying bacterial pneumonia and that the interleukin-6/interleukin-10 ratio is an effective biomarker for discriminating Mycoplasma pneumoniae pneumonia from respiratory syncytial virus pneumonia.