Immune and endothelial activation markers and risk stratification of childhood pneumonia in Uganda: A secondary analysis of a prospective cohort study

Document Type



Paediatrics and Child Health (East Africa)


Background: Despite the global burden of pneumonia, reliable triage tools to identify children in low-resource settings at risk of severe and fatal respiratory tract infection are lacking. This study assessed the ability of circulating host markers of immune and endothelial activation quantified at presentation, relative to currently used clinical measures of disease severity, to identify children with pneumonia who are at risk of death.

Methods and findings: We conducted a secondary analysis of a prospective cohort study of children aged 2 to 59 months presenting to the Jinja Regional Hospital in Jinja, Uganda between February 2012 and August 2013, who met the Integrated Management of Childhood Illness (IMCI) diagnostic criteria for pneumonia. Circulating plasma markers of immune (IL-6, IL-8, CXCL-10/IP-10, CHI3L1, sTNFR1, and sTREM-1) and endothelial (sVCAM-1, sICAM-1, Angpt-1, Angpt-2, and sFlt-1) activation measured at hospital presentation were compared to lactate, respiratory rate, oxygen saturation, procalcitonin (PCT), and C-reactive protein (CRP) with a primary outcome of predicting 48-hour mortality. Of 805 children with IMCI pneumonia, 616 had severe pneumonia. Compared to 10 other immune and endothelial activation markers, sTREM-1 levels at presentation had the best predictive accuracy in identifying 48-hour mortality for children with pneumonia (AUROC 0.885, 95% CI 0.841 to 0.928; p = 0.03 to p < 0.001) and severe pneumonia (AUROC 0.870, 95% CI 0.824 to 0.916; p = 0.04 to p < 0.001). sTREM-1 was more strongly associated with 48-hour mortality than lactate (AUROC 0.745, 95% CI 0.664 to 0.826; p < 0.001), respiratory rate (AUROC 0.615, 95% CI 0.528 to 0.702; p < 0.001), oxygen saturation (AUROC 0.685, 95% CI 0.594 to 0.776; p = 0.002), PCT (AUROC 0.650, 95% CI 0.566 to 0.734; p < 0.001), and CRP (AUROC 0.562, 95% CI 0.472 to 0.653; p < 0.001) in cases of pneumonia and severe pneumonia. The main limitation of this study was the unavailability of radiographic imaging.

Conclusions: In this cohort of Ugandan children, sTREM-1 measured at hospital presentation was a significantly better indicator of 48-hour mortality risk than other common approaches to risk stratify children with pneumonia. Measuring sTREM-1 at clinical presentation may improve the early triage, management, and outcome of children with pneumonia at risk of death.


This work was published before the author joined Aga Khan University.

Publication (Name of Journal)

PLoS Medicine

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.