Acute Phase Reactants in Infections: Evidence-Based Review and a Guide for Clinicians

Open Forum Infect Dis. 2015 Jul 3;2(3):ofv098. doi: 10.1093/ofid/ofv098. eCollection 2015 Sep.


Acute-phase reactants such as erythrocyte sedimentation rate and C-reactive protein have traditionally been used as markers for inflammation and as a measure of "sickness index" in infectious and noninfectious conditions. In the last decade, more data have become available on the wider and more specific role for these markers in the management of complex infections. This includes the potential role in early diagnosis, in differentiating infectious from noninfectious causes, as a prognostic marker, and in antibiotic guidance strategies. A better defined role for biological markers as a supplement to clinical assessment may lead to more judicious antibiotic prescriptions, and it has the potential for a long-term favorable impact on antimicrobial stewardship and antibiotic resistance. Procalcitonin as a biological marker has been of particular interest in this regard. This review examines the current published evidence and summarizes the role of various acute-phase markers in infections. A MEDLINE search of English-language articles on acute-phase reactants and infections published between 1986 and March 2015 was conducted. Additional articles were also identified through a search of references from the retrieved articles, published guidelines, systematic reviews, and meta-analyses.

Keywords: C-reactive protein; ESR; acute phase reactants; antibiotic guidance; endocarditis; infections; meningitis; osteomyelitis; pneumonia; procalcitonin; prosthetic joint infections; sepsis.

Publication types

  • Review