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Researchers Say Procalcitonin is Linked to Shorter Treatment and Reduced Mortality in Critically Ill


NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Use of the marker procalcitonin to guide antibacterial therapy in the critically ill is associated with shorter treatment and reduced mortality, according to Dutch researchers.

As Dr. Evelien de Jong told Reuters Health by email, "Antibiotic overconsumption is one of the largest threats to medicine in the near future. Our study is the largest randomized controlled trial of antibiotic reduction in intensive care units (ICUs) and will, hopefully, contribute to a more individualized antibiotic duration per patient and an overall reduction of antibiotic use."

In a February 29 online paper in the Lancet Infectious Diseases, Dr. de Jong, of VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, and colleagues noted that a "drop in procalcitonin concentration might help (clinicians) to discontinue antibiotic use in a more timely fashion" than reliance on biomarkers such as C-reactive protein.

To investigate, the researchers studied 1,575 ICU patients who received antibiotics and were randomized to procalcitonin-guided antibiotic discontinuation or standard of care. Fifteen were excluded from the procalcitonin group and 14 were excluded from the standard care group.

"In the procalcitonin-guided group, a non-binding advice to discontinue antibiotics was provided if procalcitonin concentration had decreased by 80% or more of its peak value or to 0.5 ug/L or lower," the authors reported.

In all, 538 (71%) of 761 patients in the procalcitonin-guided group and 457 (58%) of 785 patients in the standard-of-care group completed their antibiotic treatment in the ICU.

Median consumption of antibiotics was 7.5 daily defined doses in the procalcitonin group, significantly less than the 9.3 daily defined doses in the standard-of-care group, for a mean group absolute difference of 2.69 (p<0.0001).

Median duration of treatment was also significantly shorter in the procalcitonin-guided group (five versus seven days), for a mean group absolute difference of 1.22 (p<0.0001).

Mortality at 28 days was also significantly less than in the standard-of-care group. This was 20% versus 27% in intention-to-treat analysis. At one year, corresponding per protocol proportions were 36% and 43%.

Overall, the researchers concluded, "Procalcitonin concentrations might help physicians in deciding whether or not the presumed infection is truly bacterial, leading to more adequate diagnosis and treatment, the cornerstones of antibiotic stewardship."

Commenting by email, Dr. Philipp Schuetz, coauthor of an accompanying editorial, told Reuters Health, "This well-done and large landmark trial proves that procalcitonin-guided care reduces unnecessary antibiotic courses in critical care patients with assumed or proven infection and thereby improves patient outcomes, namely overall survival."

Dr. Schuetz, of the University of Basel, Switzerland, concluded, "We should now adapt our guidelines and start to (adopt) more widespread use of procalcitonin protocols in clinical practice to slow emergence of bacterial resistance and improve sepsis care."

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