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Effective Health Care Program

Future Research Needs on Procalcitonin-Guided Antibiotic Therapy

Systematic Review

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Archived: This report is greater than 3 years old. Findings may be used for research purposes, but should not be considered current.

This report is from AHRQ's series on Future Research Needs Projects.


Sepsis is a serious condition with high morbidity and mortality for which clinical diagnostic criteria lack sensitivity and specificity. Early initiation of appropriate antibiotics and goal-directed therapies reduce mortality. Conversely, overuse and misuse of antibiotics, including continuing antibiotics longer than necessary for cure can result in adverse events and add to the increasing problem of antibiotic resistance.

Several serum biomarkers have been identified in recent years that have the potential to help diagnose local and systemic infections, differentiate bacterial and fungal infections from viral syndromes or noninfectious conditions, prognosticate, and ultimately guide management, particularly antibiotic therapy. Among these, procalcitonin is the most extensively studied biomarker. Numerous studies have investigated the potential roles of procalcitonin in diagnosing and managing local and systemic infections. However, its clinical utility in the diagnosis and management of patients with suspected infections remains unclear.