Plasma concentrations of defensins and lactoferrin in children with severe sepsis

Neal J. Thomas, Joseph A. Carcillo, Lesley A. Doughty, Howell Sasser, R. Phillip Heine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Background. We hypothesized that systemic release of endogenous leukocyte-derived polypeptide antimicrobial defensins (polymorphonuclear leukocyte-specific) and lactoferrin (polymorphonuclear leukocyte and epithelial cell derived) occurs in nonneutropenic children with severe sepsis. Methods. We performed a prospective crosssectional and longitudinal study in a university children's hospital pediatric intensive care unit. Ninety-two consecutive children meeting criteria for sepsis and 14 critically ill children without sepsis (controls) were enrolled, and plasma defensins and lactoferrin concentrations were measured on Days 1 and 3 of sepsis. Results. Nonneutropenic sepsis patients (n = 71) had increased defensins and lactoferrin plasma concentrations compared with critically ill control patients [defensins, 450 ng/ml vs. 150 ng/ml; lactoferrin, 332 ng/ml vs. 176 ng/ml (median values); P < 0.05] and neutropenic sepsis patients [n = 21; defensins, 450 ng/ml vs. 50 ng/ml; lactoferrin, 332 ng/ml vs. 20 ng/ml (median values); P < 0.05]. Neutropenic sepsis patients had similar plasma defensin concentrations and a decrease in plasma lactoferrin concentrations compared with control patients (P < 0.05). Defensins and lactoferrin plasma concentrations correlated to total white blood cell and absolute neutrophil count (P < 0.05). There was no association between plasma defensin concentration and organ failure or outcome; however, increased plasma lactoferrin concentrations were observed with the development of organ failure (P < 0.05). Conclusion. These data suggest that increased circulating defensins and lactoferrin release are dependent in part on neutrophil count and might play a role in host defense in children with severe sepsis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)34-38
Number of pages5
JournalPediatric Infectious Disease Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2002

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases


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