Objectives: To determine whether neutrophil surface expression of CD11b predicts early-onset infection or suspected infection in at-risk infants.
Study design: CD11b expression on peripheral blood neutrophils was determined by flow cytometry of whole blood samples. Blood (0.1 ml) was obtained from a convenience sample of at-risk infants admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit, stained with antibodies detecting CD11b and CD15, chilled, and analyzed within 8 hours. Blood for culture, blood counts, and C-reactive protein (CRP) determination was obtained simultaneously. Subjects were grouped on the basis of culture results and clinical signs, and investigators were blinded to CD11b level.
Results: Of 106 subjects, seven had positive bacterial or viral cultures ("confirmed infection"), 17 had clinical signs of infection but negative cultures ("suspected infection"), and 82 had negative cultures and no clinical signs ("no infection"). Neutrophil CD11b was elevated in all infants with confirmed infection, 94% with suspected infection, and none with no infection. The negative and positive predictive values, sensitivity, and specificity were 100%, 99%, 96%, and 100%, respectively, for diagnosis of neonatal infection at initial evaluation. CD11b levels correlated with peak CRP (r2 = 0.76, p < 0.0001); however, CD11b was elevated at the time of admission in all five infants with proven bacterial infection, whereas CRP was normal until the second day in the neonatal intensive care unit in three of these five. Both infants with positive viral cultures had elevated CD11b, but the CRP levels remained within normal limits. The negative predictive value of neutrophil CD11b for identifying suspected or confirmed infection was 99%.
Conclusion: This assay for neutrophil CD11b is a promising test for exclusion of early-onset neonatal infection. If validated prospectively, this assay may reduce hospital and antibiotic use in the population of neonates at risk for early-onset infection.