Plasma defensin concentrations are elevated in patients with septicemia or bacterial meningitis

J Lab Clin Med. 1993 Aug;122(2):202-7.


We measured concentrations of defensins (human neutrophil peptides) in the plasma of healthy volunteers and patients with sepsis and meningitis. When a sensitive enzyme immunoassay was used, defensins were detected in plasma samples from 13 of 24 healthy blood donors, with a mean +/- SD of 42 +/- 53 ng/ml. Defensin levels in plasma samples from seven patients with sepsis at the onset of disease ranged from 900 ng/ml to 170,000 ng/ml. In 10 patients with meningitis in the initial phase of disease, plasma defensin concentrations ranged from 120 ng/ml to 910 ng/ml. Defensin concentrations in the plasma of both patient groups were significantly higher than those in healthy blood donors (p << 0.01), and patients with sepsis had higher defensin levels than patients with meningitis (p < 0.01). Defensin levels were significantly (p < 0.01) lower after the beginning of specific antibiotic therapy. Defensin concentrations in the plasma of patients with sepsis and meningitis correlated only weakly (r = 0.38) with blood neutrophil count. In vitro studies of defensin added to plasma indicated that all defensin was bound to plasma proteins. At high concentrations (1000 micrograms/ml), defensins caused precipitation of plasma proteins. Because plasma defensin levels may reflect neutrophil activation at sites of infection and inflammation, studies of the clinical utility of defensin ELISA are indicated.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Bacteremia / blood*
  • Blood Proteins / metabolism*
  • Defensins
  • Electrophoresis, Polyacrylamide Gel
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Humans
  • Meningitis, Bacterial / blood*
  • Neutrophils / metabolism*
  • Reference Values


  • Blood Proteins
  • Defensins