Ability of serum procalcitonin to distinguish focus of infection and pathogen types in patients with bloodstream infection

Yinzhi Leng, Caiyun Chen, Yongxiang Zhang, Can Luo, Bo Liu


Background: Serum procalcitonin (PCT) is a widely recognized inflammatory marker which can distinguish systemic bacterial infection from other types of infections. The ability of PCT levels to distinguish different pathogens from different focus of infection is contradictory.
Methods: This study included 551 patients with bloodstream infection (BSI) diagnosed with positive blood culture (BC) during Jan 2013 and May 2018. The patients were divided into two groups with or without definite focus of infection. In this study, we analyzed PCT levels induced by Gram-positive bacteria, Gram-negative bacteria and fungal infection. Relationship of time between PCT peak and BC collection, and the impact of antibiotics usage on PCT peak distribution were examined.
Results: For patients without definite focus of infection, the serum PCT values of Gram-negative bacteria were higher than that of Gram-positive bacteria (P<0.05). A cut-off value of 7.54 ng/mL for PCT showed a sensitivity of 88.3%. For patients with definite focus of infection, the serum PCT values of Gram-negative bacteria were significantly higher than Gram-positive bacteria in patients with lower respiratory tract (P=0.003), abdominal (P=0.039), urinary tract infection (P=0.025), but not in patients with upper respiratory tract infection (P=0.664). The PCT values between multidrug-resistant organism (MDRO) and sensitive bacteria were not statistically significant (P>0.05) among all patients. Moreover, among patients who use antibiotics before BC collection, the longer antibiotics used, the higher trend of the proportion for PCT peak distribution after BC collection. The higher proportion of antibiotics combined before BC collection, the lower proportion of PCT peak distribution appeared before BC collection, and the higher the proportion of PCT peak distribution appeared after BC collection.
Conclusions: PCT value is determined by many factors. PCT value is related to not only Gram-positive bacteria or Gram-negative bacteria, but also related to specific pathogens, and specific of infection sites etc. The use of Antibiotics is also an important factor of PCT value.