Low-Grade Inflammation Is Associated with Susceptibility to Infection in Healthy Men: Results from the Danish Blood Donor Study (DBDS)

PLoS One. 2016 Oct 4;11(10):e0164220. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0164220. eCollection 2016.


Introduction: The aim of this study was to examine whether low-grade inflammation (LGI) is associated with a subsequently increased risk of infection.

Methods: We included 15,754 healthy participants from the Danish Blood Donor Study, who completed a questionnaire on health-related items. LGI was defined as a C-reactive protein level between 3 and 10 mg/L. Infections were identified by ICD-10 codes in the Danish National Patient Register and ATC-codes in the Danish Prescription Register. Multivariable Cox proportional hazard analysis was used as the statistical model.

Results: During 53,302 person-years of observation, 571 participants were hospitalized for infection. Similarly, during 26,125 person-years of observation, 7,276 participants filled a prescription of antimicrobials. LGI was associated with increased risk of hospital-based treatment for infection only among men (hazard ratio = 1.60, 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.10-2.34) and specifically infections were abscesses and infections of the skin and subcutaneous tissue. Similarly, LGI was associated with the overall use of antimicrobials among men, and particularly with phenoxymethylpenicillin and broad-spectrum antimicrobials for treatment of urinary tract infections. The difference between men and women was not statistically significant.

Conclusions: In a large cohort of healthy individuals, LGI was associated with an increased risk of infection among healthy male blood donors.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Blood Donors
  • C-Reactive Protein / metabolism*
  • Communicable Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Denmark / epidemiology
  • Disease Susceptibility
  • Female
  • Hospitalization / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / complications
  • Inflammation / epidemiology*
  • Inflammation / metabolism
  • International Classification of Diseases
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Young Adult


  • C-Reactive Protein

Grants and funding

This study is funded by Lundbeckfonden, The Danish Council for Independent Research, The Danish Administrative Regions, Bloddonorernes Forskningsfond, and Fonden til Lægevidenskabens Fremme. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.