INTRODUCTION: C-reactive protein (CRP), white blood cell (WBC) and absolute neutrophil counts (ANC) are important inflammatory biomarkers in the early diagnosis of infections. However, little is known on their profile and usefulness in fever case management in children attending outpatient clinic in rural north-eastern Tanzania.
METHODS: Patients aged between 2 and 59 months presenting with fever at Korogwe District Hospital were enrolled. Venous blood was collected for evaluation of serum CRP, WBC and ANC. Individual patient diagnosis was based on integrated management of childhood illness (IMCI) guidelines and laboratory investigations (blood and urine cultures).
RESULTS: A total of 867 patients were enrolled, out of which 691 (79.7%) had complete clinical and laboratory data available for analysis. Acute upper respiratory tract infection 284 (41.1%), acute gastroenteritis 127 (18.4%) and pneumonia 100 (14.5%) were the most frequent diagnoses. The geometric mean levels of serum CRP, WBC and ANC were 10.4 (95% CI: 9.2 - 11.8), 11.5 (95% CI: 11.1 - 11.9) and 5.5 (95% CI: 5.2 - 5.8), respectively. CRP≤20, WBC≤15 (103cells/µL) and ANC≤10 103cells/µL) were observed in the majority of the patients with upper respiratory tract infection, pneumonia, acute gastroenteritis and non-specific febrile illness. Only serum CRP levels were positively correlated with positive blood cultures at a calculated cut-off value of 37.3 mg/L, giving a specificity of 77.8% and sensitivity of 74.2%.
CONCLUSION: CRP assessment together with IMCI guidelines may be useful in assisting the diagnosis and management of paediatric febrile infections in Tanzania.
- C-reactive protein