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PLoS By Category | Recent PLoS Articles
Infectious Diseases - Pediatrics and Child Health - Public Health and Epidemiology - Respiratory Medicine

Procalcitonin Predicts Response to Beta-Lactam Treatment in Hospitalized Children with Community-Acquired Pneumonia
Published: Thursday, May 17, 2012
Author: Jérémie F. Cohen et al.

by Jérémie F. Cohen, Alexander Leis, Thibault Lecarpentier, Josette Raymond, Dominique Gendrel, Martin Chalumeau


Antibiotic treatment of community-acquired pneumonia (CAP) in children remains mostly empirical because clinical and paraclinical findings poorly discriminate the principal causes of CAP. Fast response to beta-lactam treatment can be considered a proxy of pneumococcal aetiology. We aimed to identify the best biological predictor of response to beta-lactam therapy in children hospitalized for CAP.


A retrospective, single-centre cohort study included all consecutive patients 1 month to 16 years old hospitalized in a teaching hospital in Paris, France, because of CAP empirically treated with a beta-lactam alone from 2003 to 2010. Uni- and multivariate analyses were used to study the ability of routine biological parameters available in the Emergency Department to predict a favourable response to beta-lactam (defined as apyrexia within 48 hours of treatment onset).


Among the 125 included patients, 85% (106) showed a favourable response to beta-lactam. In multivariate logistic regression, we found procalcitonin (PCT) the only independent predictor of apyrexia (p?=?0.008). The adjusted odds ratio for the decadic logarithm of PCT was 4.3 (95% CI 1.5–12.7). At =3 ng/mL, PCT had 55.7% sensitivity (45.7–65.3), 78.9% specificity (54.4–93.9), 93.7% positive predictive value (84.5–98.2), 24.2% negative predictive value (14.2–36.7), 2.64 positive likelihood ratio (1.09–6.42) and 0.56 negative likelihood ratio (0.41–0.77). In the 4 children with a PCT level =3 ng/mL and who showed no response to beta-lactam treatment, secondary pleural effusion had developed in 3, and viral co-infection was documented in 1.


PCT is the best independent biologic predictor of favourable response to beta-lactam therapy in children hospitalized for CAP. Thus, a high PCT level is highly suggestive of pneumococcal aetiology. However, a 3-ng/mL cut-off does not seem compatible with daily medical practice, and additional research is needed to further define the role of PCT in managing CAP in children.