Evaluation of interleukin-6, tumour necrosis factor-alpha and interleukin-1beta for early diagnosis of neonatal sepsis

Acta Paediatr. 1999 Jun;88(6):647-50. doi: 10.1080/08035259950169314.


The objective of this study was to assess the contribution of interleukin-6 (IL-6), tumour necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) and interleukin-1beta (IL-1beta) to an early diagnosis of early-onset neonatal sepsis. A cohort of 117 newborn infants delivered during a 1-y period had IL-6, TNF-alpha and IL-1beta, blood and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) cultures, leucocyte and platelet count collected on the initial evaluation of possible early-onset sepsis. They were divided into four groups: I, positive blood and/or CSF cultures; II, probably infected with clinical sepsis but negative cultures; III, same as group II but mother received antibiotic antepartum; and IV, newborn infants that did not receive any antibiotic therapy. There were no differences among the four groups with respect to mean gestational ages and birthweights, median Apgar scores, type of delivery, or number of newborn infants with leucocyte count <5000 mm(-3) or >25000 mm(-3), platelet count <100000 mm(-3), immature/total neutrophil ratio >0.2, absolute neutrophil count <1000mm(-3) and median IL-1beta levels. Median IL-6 and TNF-alpha levels were significantly higher in groups with patients with a diagnosis of clinical sepsis than in controls. The optimal cut-off point was 32 pg ml(-1) for IL-6 and 12 pg ml(-1) for TNF-alpha. The combination of both provided a sensitivity of 98.5%. In conclusion, the combination of IL-6 and TNF-alpha is a highly sensitive marker of sepsis in the immediate postnatal period.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Interleukin-1 / blood*
  • Interleukin-1 / cerebrospinal fluid*
  • Interleukin-6 / blood*
  • Interleukin-6 / cerebrospinal fluid*
  • Leukocyte Count
  • Neutrophils / physiology
  • Platelet Count
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Prenatal Care
  • Prospective Studies
  • Systemic Inflammatory Response Syndrome* / blood
  • Systemic Inflammatory Response Syndrome* / cerebrospinal fluid
  • Systemic Inflammatory Response Syndrome* / diagnosis
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / physiology*


  • Interleukin-1
  • Interleukin-6
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha