Reference distributions for the negative acute-phase serum proteins, albumin, transferrin and transthyretin: a practical, simple and clinically relevant approach in a large cohort

J Clin Lab Anal. 1999;13(6):273-9. doi: 10.1002/(sici)1098-2825(1999)13:6<273::aid-jcla4>;2-x.


Inflammation is associated with diverse clinical conditions accompanied by characteristic changes in serum levels of the acute-phase proteins that can be used to stage the inflammatory process and evaluate the impact of treatment. Some acute-phase proteins increase during inflammation, while others, such as albumin, transferrin, and transthyretin, decrease. The current study reports reference ranges for serum levels of albumin, transferrin, and transthyretin based on a cohort of over 124,000 Caucasian individuals from northern New England, tested in our laboratory between 1986 and 1998. Measurements were standardized against CRM 470 (RPPHS) and analyzed using a previously validated statistical approach. Individuals with laboratory evidence of inflammation (C-reactive protein of 10 mg/L or higher) were excluded. The levels of all three analytes varied by age, generally rising until the second or third decade of life and then decreasing thereafter. Albumin and transthyretin levels were higher during midlife among males as compared to females; the maximum being at 25 years for albumin (5%) and 35 years for transthyretin (16%). In contrast, above the age of 10 years, transferrin levels were increasingly higher among females (7% at 20 years). When values were expressed as multiples of the age- and gender-specific median levels, the resulting distributions fitted a log-Gaussian distribution. When patient data are normalized in this manner, the distribution parameters can be used to assign a corresponding centile to an individual's measurement simplifying interpretation. The ultimate interpretation of an individual's measurement relies upon the clinical setting.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acute-Phase Proteins / metabolism*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • New England
  • Prealbumin / metabolism
  • Reference Values
  • Serum Albumin / metabolism
  • Transferrin / metabolism
  • White People


  • Acute-Phase Proteins
  • Prealbumin
  • Serum Albumin
  • Transferrin