Integrative omics to detect bacteremia in patients with febrile neutropenia

PLoS One. 2018 May 16;13(5):e0197049. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0197049. eCollection 2018.


Background: Cancer chemotherapy-associated febrile neutropenia (FN) is a common condition that is deadly when bacteremia is present. Detection of bacteremia depends on culture, which takes days, and no accurate predictive tools applicable to the initial evaluation are available. We utilized metabolomics and transcriptomics to develop multivariable predictors of bacteremia among FN patients.

Methods: We classified emergency department patients with FN and no apparent infection at presentation as bacteremic (cases) or not (controls), according to blood culture results. We assessed relative metabolite abundance in plasma, and relative expression of 2,560 immunology and cancer-related genes in whole blood. We used logistic regression to identify multivariable predictors of bacteremia, and report test characteristics of the derived predictors.

Results: For metabolomics, 14 bacteremic cases and 25 non-bacteremic controls were available for analysis; for transcriptomics we had 7 and 22 respectively. A 5-predictor metabolomic model had an area under the receiver operating characteristic curve of 0.991 (95%CI: 0.972,1.000), 100% sensitivity, and 96% specificity for identifying bacteremia. Pregnenolone steroids were more abundant in cases and carnitine metabolites were more abundant in controls. A 3-predictor gene expression model had corresponding results of 0.961 (95%CI: 0.896,1.000), 100%, and 86%. Genes involved in innate immunity were differentially expressed.

Conclusions: Classifiers derived from metabolomic and gene expression data hold promise as objective and accurate predictors of bacteremia among FN patients without apparent infection at presentation, and can provide insights into the underlying biology. Our findings should be considered illustrative, but may lay the groundwork for future biomarker development.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Bacteremia* / genetics
  • Bacteremia* / immunology
  • Bacteremia* / metabolism
  • Chemotherapy-Induced Febrile Neutropenia* / genetics
  • Chemotherapy-Induced Febrile Neutropenia* / immunology
  • Chemotherapy-Induced Febrile Neutropenia* / metabolism
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate / genetics
  • Male
  • Metabolome* / genetics
  • Metabolome* / immunology
  • Metabolomics*
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms* / drug therapy
  • Neoplasms* / genetics
  • Neoplasms* / immunology
  • Neoplasms* / metabolism