Biomarkers for diagnosis of neonatal infections: A systematic analysis of their potential as a point-of-care diagnostics

J Glob Health. 2011 Dec;1(2):201-9.


Background: Neonatal infections annually claim lives of 1.4 million neonates worldwide. Until now, there is no ideal diagnostic test for detecting sepsis and thus management of possible sepsis cases often depends on clinical algorithm leading to empirical treatment. This often results in unnecessary antibiotic use, which may lead to emergence of antibiotic resistance. Biomarkers have shown great promise in diagnosis of sepsis and guiding appropriate treatment of neonates. In this study, we conducted a literature review of existing biomarkers to analyze their status for use as a point-of-care diagnostic in developing countries.

Methods: PubMed and EMBASE database were searched with keywords, 'infections', 'neonates', and 'biomarkers' to retrieve potentially relevant papers from the period 1980 to 2010. Leading hospitals and manufacturers were communicated to inquire about the cost, laboratory requirements and current standing of biomarkers in clinical use.

Results: The search returned 6407 papers on biomarkers; 65 were selected after applying inclusion and exclusion criteria. Among the studies, C-reactive protein (CRP), procalcitonin (PCT) and interleukin 6 (IL-6) were the most widely studied biomarkers and were considered to be most promising for diagnosing neonatal infections. About 90% of the studies were from developed countries; more than 50% were from Europe.

Conclusions: Extensive work is being performed to find the diagnostic and prognostic value of biomarkers. However, the methodologies and study design are highly variable. Despite numerous research papers on biomarkers, their use in clinical setting is limited to CRP. The methods for detection of biomarkers are far too advanced to be used at the community level where most of the babies are dying. It is important that a harmonized multi-site study is initiated to find a battery of biomarkers for diagnosis of neonatal infections.