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Determination of pentraxin 3 levels in cerebrospinal fluid during central nervous system infections


Pentraxin 3 (PTX3) is an acute phase protein; its plasmatic levels significantly rise during severe infections. Data on PTX3 levels in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) of patients with central nervous system (CNS) infections are lacking. We aimed (a) to assess the diagnostic potential of measuring CSF PTX3 levels in patients with CNS infections and (b) to establish CSF PTX3 cutoffs to distinguish between bacterial and aseptic meningoencephalitis (ROC curve). PTX3 levels were measured in CSF from 19 patients admitted to Trieste Hospital, Italy, with CNS infection. A diagnosis of bacterial infection and aseptic meningoencephalitis was made in 7 (37%) and 12 (63%) patients, respectively. Subjects with bacterial infections showed significantly higher PTX3 levels (13.5 vs 1.27 ng/mL in aseptic meningoencephalitis, p = 0.010). We identified two different CSF PTX3 levels cutoffs. (1) The best cutoff to maximise Youden’s J was 9.6 ng/mL with a sensitivity, specificity, positive predictive value and negative predictive value (NPV) of 71.4%, 91.4%, 83.3%, 84.6%, respectively. (2) The cutoff with higher NPV (100%) was 3.6 ng/mL; a diagnosis of bacterial infections was obtained in 0% patients with CSF PTX3 levels < 3.6 ng/mL vs 58% of those with CSF PTX3 levels ≥ 3.6 ng/mL (p = 0.017). CSF PTX3 levels are higher in bacterial meningitis than aseptic meningoencephalitis. A cutoff of 3.6 ng/mL of CSF PTX3 has a high NPV and can be used to exclude bacterial CNS infections.

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The contribution of the European Research Council (ERC No. 669415 to A. Mantovani) is gratefully acknowledged.

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Correspondence to Marta Zatta.

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Zatta, M., Di Bella, S., Bottazzi, B. et al. Determination of pentraxin 3 levels in cerebrospinal fluid during central nervous system infections. Eur J Clin Microbiol Infect Dis 39, 665–670 (2020).

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  • Pentraxin3
  • Central nervous system infections
  • Meningitis
  • Etiology