Despite extensive research on procalcitonin (PCT)-guided therapy in lower respiratory tract infections, the association between PCT and bacterial pneumonia remains unclear.
We evaluated retrospectively the performance of PCT in patients presenting with lower respiratory tract infection symptoms and grouped by seven diagnoses. All patients had microbial testing, chest imaging, and CBC counts within 1 day of PCT testing.
Median PCT level in patients diagnosed with bacterial pneumonia was significantly higher than in patients diagnosed with other sources of infections or those not diagnosed with infections. Median PCT levels were not different among patients grouped by type or quantity of pathogen detected. They were significantly higher in patients with higher pathogenicity scores for isolated bacteria, those with abnormal WBC count, and those with chest imaging consistent with bacterial pneumonia. A diagnostic workup that included imaging, WBC count, and Gram stain had an area under the receiver operating characteristic curve of 0.748, and the addition of PCT increased it to 0.778.
PCT was higher in patients diagnosed with bacterial pneumonia. Less clear is its diagnostic ability to detect bacterial pneumonia over and above imaging and laboratory data routinely available to clinicians.