Levels of antimicrobial molecules defensin and lactoferrin are elevated in the cerebrospinal fluid of children with meningitis.
OBJECTIVE:To measure levels of defensins and lactoferrin in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) of children with meningitis. STUDY DESIGN. Prospective descriptive study involving children undergoing lumbar puncture during evaluation for meningitis. METHODS:CSF concentrations of defensins and lactoferrin were determined using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays on 19 children with bacterial meningitis, 31 children with aseptic meningitis, and 32 control children found to have normal CSF during evaluation for meningitis. Pertinent clinical and laboratory data were gathered on all children. RESULTS:CSF concentrations of both defensins and lactoferrin were elevated markedly in children with bacterial and aseptic meningitis, compared with control children. No control subject had detectable levels of defensins in the CSF. Lactoferrin was undetectable in the CSF of 31 of 32 control subjects. Defensin and lactoferrin levels were significantly higher in the CSF of children with bacterial meningitis than in those with aseptic meningitis. Defensin levels in the CSF of children with bacterial meningitis ranged from 128 ng/mL to 99 430 ng/mL with a mean of 30 311 ng/mL (SD +/- 28 865) and a median of 23 042 ng/mL. Defensin levels in the CSF of children with aseptic meningitis ranged from 0 ng/mL to 1675 ng/mL with a mean of 227 ng/mL (SD +/- 433) and a median of 23 ng/mL. A significant correlation was found between defensin levels in the CSF and the total leukocyte count and the absolute neutrophil count in the CSF of children with bacterial meningitis. Lactoferrin levels in the CSF of children with bacterial meningitis ranged from 184 ng/mL to 31 412 ng/mL with a mean of 13 209 ng/mL (SD +/- 9644) and a median of 10 382 ng/mL. Lactoferrin levels in the CSF of children with aseptic meningitis ranged from 0 ng/mL to 2715 ng/mL with a mean of 1042 ng/mL (SD +/- 878) and a median of 852 ng/mL. No correlation was found between lactoferrin level in the CSF and the total leukocyte count or the absolute neutrophil count in the CSF of children with bacterial meningitis. In our study population, the sum total of CSF defensins and lactoferrin was found to be highly sensitive and specific in delineating bacterial from aseptic meningitis when compared with standard CSF studies. CONCLUSIONS:Significant elevations of defensins and lactoferrin, indicative of endogenous local antimicrobial peptide and polypeptide release, are found in the CSF of children with meningitis. We speculate that elevations in these antimicrobial molecules may reflect the intensity of the host response. Defensins seem to parallel neutrophil activation more closely than lactoferrin. Cumulative levels of CSF defensins and lactoferrin clearly distinguished bacterial meningitis from aseptic meningitis and control patients. Further investigation is warranted to determine the usefulness of measuring defensins and lactoferrin as a diagnostic tool and therapeutic monitor in the evaluation of children with meningitis.
Maffei, FA; Heine, RP; Whalen, MJ; Mortimer, LF; Carcillo, JA
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