C-reactive protein point-of-care testing and associated antibiotic prescribing

Fam Pract. 2016 Aug;33(4):408-13. doi: 10.1093/fampra/cmw039. Epub 2016 May 26.


Background: In clinical trials, the potential of point-of-care (POC) C-reactive protein (CRP) tests was demonstrated in decreasing antibiotic prescribing in adults with acute cough in general practice, but effects of implementation are unknown.

Objective: To determine the overall effect of POC CRP testing on antibiotic prescribing rate in general practice.

Methods: In an observational study, GPs were instructed to use POC CRP in adults with acute cough following current guidelines. After routine history taking and physical examination, they reported whether they intended to prescribe antibiotics ('pre-test decision'). They reported their revised decision after receiving the POC CRP test result ('post-test decision'). Primary outcome was the percentage of patients in whom the GP changed his or her decision to prescribe antibiotics. Secondary outcome was the difference between 'pre-test' and 'post-test' antibiotic prescribing % at group level.

Results: A total of 40 GPs enrolled 939 patients, 78% of whom were tested for CRP. GPs changed their decision after POC CRP testing in 200 patients (27%). Antibiotic prescribing before and after CRP testing did not differ ('pre-test' 31%, 'post-test' 28%; 95% confidence interval of difference -7 to 1). In 41% of the tested patients, the indication for testing was in accordance with the guidelines.

Conclusion: POC CRP influenced GPs to change their decision about antibiotic prescribing in patients with acute cough. POC CRP testing does not reduce overall antibiotic prescribing by GPs who already have a low antibiotic prescribing rate.

Keywords: C-reactive protein; Community-acquired pneumonia; general practice; guideline adherence; lower respiratory tract infection; point-of-care testing..

Publication types

  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • C-Reactive Protein / analysis*
  • Cough / drug therapy
  • Female
  • General Practice
  • Guideline Adherence
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Netherlands
  • Point-of-Care Testing / statistics & numerical data*
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / statistics & numerical data*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / drug therapy


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • C-Reactive Protein