Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

© 2019 The Author(s). Background: The value of biomarkers for diagnosing bacterial infections in older outpatients is uncertain and limited official guidance exists for clinicians in this area. The aim of this review is to critically appraise and evaluate biomarkers for diagnosing bacterial infections in older adults (aged 65 years and above). Methods: We searched Medline, Embase, Web of Science and the Cochrane Library, from inception to January 2018. We included studies assessing the diagnostic accuracy of blood, urinary, and salivary biomarkers in diagnosing bacterial infections in older adults. The QUADAS-2 tool was used to assess study quality. Results: We identified 11 eligible studies of moderate quality (11,034 participants) including 51 biomarkers at varying thresholds for diagnosing bacterial infections. An elevated Procalcitonin (≥ 0.2 ng/mL) may help diagnose bacteraemia in older adults [+ve LR range 1.50 to 2.60]. A CRP ≥ 50 mg/L only raises the probability of bacteraemia by 5%. A positive urine dipstick aids diagnosis of UTI (+ve LR range 1.23 to 54.90), and absence helps rule out UTI (-ve LR range 0.06 to 0.46). An elevated white blood cell count is unhelpful in diagnosing intra-abdominal infections (+ve LR range 0.75 to 2.62), but may aid differentiation of bacterial infection from other acute illness (+ve LR range 2.14 to 7.12). Conclusions: The limited available evidence suggests that many diagnostic tests useful in younger patients, do not help to diagnose bacterial infections in older adults. Further evidence from high quality studies is urgently needed to guide clinical practice. Until then, symptoms and signs remain the mainstay of diagnosis in community based populations.

Original publication




Journal article


BMC Geriatrics

Publication Date