Fecal markers: calprotectin and lactoferrin

Gastroenterol Clin North Am. 2012 Jun;41(2):483-95. doi: 10.1016/j.gtc.2012.01.007. Epub 2012 Feb 16.


Overall, fecal markers have been found to be more accurate than serum markers. However, fecal markers are not specific for IBD and may be elevated in a range of organic conditions. Fecal calprotectin and lactoferrin can still differentiate inflammatory disease from functional bowel disorders. Comparison studies have found an overall diagnostic accuracy in IBD of 80% to 100% for both calprotectin and lactoferrin. Elevated levels are found in both CD and UC making it difficult to distinguish between these 2 diagnoses from these biomarkers alone. Both markers correlated well to mucosal healing and histologic improvement. Hence, they may be useful in monitoring response to treatment and predicting endoscopic and clinical relapse. Overall, patients with elevated markers were at higher risk of postoperative recurrence than those with normal levels. Fecal markers are useful in predicting pouchitis as well. Fecal markers are helpful as an adjunctive tool in overall evaluation of patients with nonspecific symptoms and as a management tool in those with inflammatory disease to monitor disease activity and possibility of relapse. They are less invasive than colonoscopy and can help guide management in a more cost-effective manner.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Feces / chemistry*
  • Humans
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / metabolism
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / therapy
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome / diagnosis
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome / metabolism
  • Lactoferrin / metabolism*
  • Leukocyte L1 Antigen Complex / metabolism*
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Prognosis
  • Severity of Illness Index


  • Biomarkers
  • Leukocyte L1 Antigen Complex
  • Lactoferrin