Eosinophil count (EC) as a diagnostic and prognostic marker for infection in the internal medicine department setting

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Introduction. Eosinopenia has been previously investigated as a marker to differentiate infectious from non-infectious diagnoses and as a prognostic marker. Most previous studies were conducted in intensive care unit patients. Our study focuses on the value of eosinopenia in patients admitted to the Internal Medicine department.

Methods. We retrospectively analyzed 271 consecutive patients with infection and 31 patients presenting with fever or inflammatory syndrome and a non-infectious diagnosis. We evaluated and compared the following markers for differentiating infectious from non-infectious diagnoses: eosinophil count [EC], CRP, WBC and neutrophil-to-lymphocyte count ratio [NLCR]. We also evaluated the value of eosinopenia as a monitoring parameter in patients with infections.

Results. Eosinopenia at admission was found in 71% of patients with infection compared to 32% in the non-infection group. EC and NLCR were moderate markers for discriminating infection from non-infection, with an area under the receiver operating characteristic curve of 0.789 and 0.718 respectively. Significant eosinopenia (≤ 10/µL) had a high specificity (90%) for diagnosing infections. High EC at admission (> 400/µL) was rare in the infection group (1.5%), but not uncommon in the non-infection group (25.8%). Persistent eosinopenia was noted in non-survivors, compared to the rapid normalization of EC in survivors.

Conclusions. Among patients presenting with fever and/or high inflammatory markers a low EC is supportive of infection, while a high EC may suggest non-infectious diagnoses. The persistence/ resolution of eosinopenia may be a useful monitoring parameter to predict response to therapy.

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