Background: Faecal calprotectin is considered to be a valid test for ruling out inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) in children with chronic gastrointestinal symptoms in specialist care. In contrast, faecal lactoferrin has higher specificity. The recent availability of both as point-of-care tests (POCTs) makes them attractive for use in primary care.
Objective: To evaluate the test characteristics of calprotectin and lactoferrin POCTs for diagnosing IBD in symptomatic children.
Methods: We defined two prospective cohorts of children with chronic gastrointestinal symptoms: (i) children presenting to primary care (primary care cohort); (ii) children referred for specialist care (referred cohort). Baseline POCT results were compared with the outcome of either endoscopic assessment or 12 months follow-up. Clinicians were blinded to the POCT results.
Results: In the primary care cohort, none of the 114 children had IBD, and the calprotectin and lactoferrin POCTs had specificities of 0.95 (0.89-0.98) and 0.98 (0.93-0.99), respectively. In the referred cohort, 17 of the 90 children had IBD: the sensitivity of POCT calprotectin and POCT lactoferrin were both 0.94 (0.72-0.99); and the specificity was 0.93 (0.84-0.97) and 0.99 (0.92-1.00), respectively. The POCT calprotectin could reduce the referral rate by 76% and POCT lactoferrin by 81%, while missing one child with IBD (6%).
Conclusion: A diagnostic test strategy in primary care using a simple POCT calprotectin or lactoferrin has the potential to reduce the need for referral for further diagnostic work-up in specialist care, with a low risk of missing a child with IBD.
Keywords: Calprotectin; inflammatory bowel disease; lactoferrin; paediatrics; point-of-care test; primary care.
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