Serum LL-37 Levels Associated With Severity of Bronchiolitis and Viral Etiology

Clin Infect Dis. 2017 Sep 15;65(6):967-975. doi: 10.1093/cid/cix483.


Background: LL-37 is a host defense peptide with antimicrobial and immunomodulatory properties. We examined the relation of serum LL-37 levels to the severity of bronchiolitis and viral etiology.

Methods: We performed a 17-center prospective cohort study in infants hospitalized with bronchiolitis over 3 winters (2011-2014). Site teams collected clinical data, nasopharyngeal aspirates and serum. We used real-time polymerase chain reaction to test nasopharyngeal aspirates for 16 viruses. We tested serum for LL-37. Severity of bronchiolitis was defined by intensive care use and hospital length of stay. Viral etiology was defined as respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) or rhinovirus (RV), including coinfections with other viruses.

Results: The median age of the 1005 enrolled infants was 3 months (interquartile range, 2-6 months). After adjustment for 12 variables, LL-37 levels in the lowest quartile, compared with the highest, were associated both with intensive care use (adjusted odds ratio [aOR], 1.97; P = .01) and longer hospital stay (1.34; P < .001). In separate multivariable models, infants with LL-37 levels in the lowest 3 quartiles, compared with the highest, were more likely to have RSV (eg, aOR, 2.6 [lowest quartile]; P < .001 [all quartiles]). By contrast, infants with the lowest 3 LL-37 quartiles were less likely to have RV (eg, aOR, 0.5 [lowest quartile]; Pall quartiles ≤ .03 [all quartiles]).

Conclusions: In a large multicenter study of infants hospitalized with bronchiolitis, lower levels of serum LL-37 were associated with increased severity of illness. There was also an inverse relationship between LL-37 levels and the most common virus causing bronchiolitis, RSV. These findings highlight the role of LL-37 in the pathogenesis of bronchiolitis.

Keywords: LL-37; bronchiolitis; microbiota; respiratory syncytial virus; severity of illness.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Antimicrobial Cationic Peptides / blood*
  • Bronchiolitis / blood*
  • Bronchiolitis / virology*
  • Bronchiolitis, Viral / blood
  • Coinfection / blood
  • Coinfection / complications
  • Common Cold / blood
  • Common Cold / complications
  • Critical Care
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Length of Stay
  • Male
  • Nasopharynx / virology
  • Prospective Studies
  • Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infections / blood
  • Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infections / complications
  • Respiratory Syncytial Viruses / isolation & purification
  • Rhinovirus / isolation & purification
  • Severity of Illness Index


  • Antimicrobial Cationic Peptides
  • ropocamptide