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Procalcitonin and C-reactive protein cannot differentiate bacterial or viral infection in COPD exacerbation requiring emergency department visits

Authors Chang CH, Tsao KC, Hu HC, Huang CC, Kao KC, Chen NH, Yang CT, Tsai YH, Hsieh MJ

Received 31 October 2014

Accepted for publication 10 January 2015

Published 13 April 2015 Volume 2015:10(1) Pages 767—774

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/COPD.S76740

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 5

Editor who approved publication: Dr Richard Russell

Chih-Hao Chang,1 Kuo-Chien Tsao,2,3 Han-Chung Hu,1,4 Chung-Chi Huang,1,4 Kuo-Chin Kao,1,4 Ning-Hung Chen,1,4 Cheng-Ta Yang,1,4 Ying-Huang Tsai,4,5 Meng-Jer Hsieh4,5

1Department of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, Linkou Chang-Gung Memorial Hospital, Chang-Gung Medical Foundation, Chang-Gung University College of Medicine, Taoyuan, Taiwan; 2Department of Laboratory Medicine, Linkou Chang-Gung Memorial Hospital, Chang-Gung Medical Foundation; 3Department of Medical Biotechnology and Laboratory Science, Chang Gung University, Taoyuan, Taiwan; 4Department of Respiratory Therapy, Chang-Gung University, Taoyuan, Taiwan; 5Department of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, Chiayi Chang-Gung Memorial Hospital, Chang-Gung Medical Foundation, Puzi City, Taiwan

Background: Viral and bacterial infections are the most common causes of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) exacerbations. Whether serum inflammatory markers can differentiate bacterial from virus infection in patients with COPD exacerbation requiring emergency department (ED) visits remains controversial.
Methods: Viral culture and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) were used to identify the viruses in the oropharynx of patients with COPD exacerbations. The bacteria were identified by the semiquantitative culture of the expectorated sputum. The peripheral blood white blood cell (WBC) counts, serum C-reactive protein (CRP), procalcitonin (PCT), and clinical symptoms were compared among patients with different types of infections.
Results: Viruses were isolated from 16 (22.2%) of the 72 patients enrolled. The most commonly identified viruses were parainfluenza type 3, influenza A, and rhinovirus. A total of 30 (41.7%) patients had positive bacterial cultures, with the most commonly found bacteria being Haemophilus influenzae and Haemophilus parainfluenzae. Five patients (6.9%) had both positive sputum cultures and virus identification. The WBC, CRP, and PCT levels of the bacteria-positive and bacteria-negative groups were not statistically different. Multivariate analysis showed that patients with increased sputum volumes during the COPD exacerbations had higher risks of recurrent exacerbations in the 1-year period following the first exacerbation.
Conclusion: WBC, CRP, or PCT could not differentiate between bacterial and viral infections in patients with COPD exacerbation requiring ED visits. Those with increased sputum during a COPD exacerbation had higher risks for recurrent exacerbations.

Keywords: chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, bacterial infection, virus, CRP

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