Background: Neonatal early-onset sepsis (EOS) is one of the main causes of global neonatal mortality and morbidity, and initiation of early antibiotic treatment is key. However, antibiotics may be harmful.
Methods: We performed a secondary analysis of results from the Neonatal Procalcitonin Intervention Study, a prospective, multicenter, randomized, controlled intervention study. The primary outcome was the diagnostic accuracy of serial measurements of C-reactive protein (CRP), procalcitonin (PCT), and white blood count (WBC) within different time windows to rule out culture-positive EOS (proven sepsis).
Results: We analyzed 1678 neonates with 10 899 biomarker measurements (4654 CRP, 2047 PCT, and 4198 WBC) obtained within the first 48 hours after the start of antibiotic therapy due to suspected EOS. The areas under the curve (AUC) comparing no sepsis vs proven sepsis for maximum values of CRP, PCT, and WBC within 36 hours were 0.986, 0.921, and 0.360, respectively. The AUCs for CRP and PCT increased with extended time frames up to 36 hours, but there was no further difference between start to 36 hours vs start to 48 hours. Cutoff values at 16 mg/L for CRP and 2.8 ng/L for PCT provided a sensitivity of 100% for discriminating no sepsis vs proven sepsis.
Conclusions: Normal serial CRP and PCT measurements within 36 hours after the start of empiric antibiotic therapy can exclude the presence of neonatal EOS with a high probability. The negative predictive values of CRP and PCT do not increase after 36 hours.