Evaluation of fecal inflammatory biomarkers to identify bacterial diarrhea episodes: Systematic review and protocol for the enterics for global health shigella surveillance study

Document Type



Paediatrics and Child Health


Background: The measurement of fecal inflammatory biomarkers among individuals presenting to care with diarrhea could improve the identification of bacterial diarrheal episodes that would benefit from antibiotic therapy. We reviewed prior literature in this area and describe our proposed methods to evaluate 4 biomarkers in the Enterics for Global Health (EFGH) Shigella surveillance study.
Methods: We systematically reviewed studies since 1970 from PubMed and Embase that assessed the diagnostic characteristics of inflammatory biomarkers to identify bacterial diarrhea episodes. We extracted sensitivity and specificity and summarized the evidence by biomarker and diarrhea etiology. In EFGH, we propose using commercial enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays to test for myeloperoxidase, calprotectin, lipocalin-2, and hemoglobin in stored whole stool samples collected within 24 hours of enrollment from participants in the Bangladesh, Kenya, Malawi, Pakistan, Peru, and The Gambia sites. We will develop clinical prediction scores that incorporate the inflammatory biomarkers and evaluate their ability to identify Shigella and other bacterial etiologies of diarrhea as determined by quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR).
Results: Forty-nine studies that assessed fecal leukocytes (n = 39), red blood cells (n = 26), lactoferrin (n = 13), calprotectin (n = 8), and myeloperoxidase (n = 1) were included in the systematic review. Sensitivities were high for identifying Shigella, moderate for identifying any bacteria, and comparable across biomarkers. Specificities varied depending on the outcomes assessed. Prior studies were generally small, identified red and white blood cells by microscopy, and used insensitive gold standard diagnostics, such as conventional bacteriological culture for pathogen detection.
Conclusions: Our evaluation of inflammatory biomarkers to distinguish diarrhea etiologies as determined by qPCR will provide an important addition to the prior literature, which was likely biased by the limited sensitivity of the gold standard diagnostics used. We will determine whether point-of-care biomarker tests could be a viable strategy to inform treatment decision making and increase appropriate targeting of antibiotic treatment to bacterial diarrhea episodes

Publication (Name of Journal)

Open Forum Infectious Diseases