The utility of peripheral blood leucocyte ratios as biomarkers in infectious diseases: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Clark D Russell, Arun Parajuli, Hugo J Gale, Naomi S Bulteel, Philipp Schuetz, Cornelis P C de Jager, Anne J M Loonen, Georgios I Merekoulias, John Baillie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

OBJECTIVES: To assess the utility of the neutrophil:lymphocyte (NLR), lymphocyte:monocyte (LMR) and platelet:lymphocyte ratios (PLR) as infection biomarkers.

METHODS: PubMed/MEDLINE, Embase and Cochrane databases were searched to identify eligible articles. Studies of diagnosis, severity or outcome were included. PROSPERO systematic review registration CRD42017075032.

RESULTS: Forty studies were included, reporting on bacterial and viral infections, malaria, and critical illness due to sepsis. Ten studies reported an association of higher NLR with bacteraemia, supported by meta-analysis of patient-level data (five studies, n=3320; AUC 0.72, p<0.0001) identifying a cut-off of >12.65. Two studies reported an association with lower LMR and diagnosis of influenza virus infection in patients with respiratory tract infection. Meta-analysis of patient-level data (n=85; AUC 0.66, p=0.01) identified a cut-off of ≤2.06. The directionality of associations between NLR and outcomes in heterogeneous cohorts of critically ill adults with sepsis varied. Potential clinical utility was also demonstrated in pneumonia (NLR), pertussis (NLR), urinary tract infection (NLR), diabetic foot infections (NLR) and Crimean Congo Haemorrhagic Fever (PLR). Longitudinal measurement of LMR during respiratory virus infection reflected symptoms and NLR during sepsis and bacteraemia predicted mortality.

CONCLUSIONS: Peripheral blood leucocyte ratios are useful infection biomarkers, with the most evidence related to diagnosis of bacteraemia and influenza virus infection. In critical illness due to sepsis, a signal towards an association with NLR and outcomes exists, and NLR should be evaluated in future stratification models. Longitudinal measurement of ratios during infection could be informative. Overall, these biomarkers warrant further recognition and study in infectious diseases.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Infection
Early online date22 Feb 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 22 Feb 2019

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Neutrophils
  • Monocytes
  • Blood platelets
  • Sepsis
  • Bacteremia
  • Influenza
  • Pneumonia
  • Stratified medicine
  • Endotypes


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