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CC and CXC chemokine levels in children with meningococcal sepsis accurately predict mortality and disease severity

Clementien L Vermont12, Jan A Hazelzet1*, Ester D de Kleijn1, Germie PJM van den Dobbelsteen2 and Ronald de Groot1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Pediatrics, Erasmus MC-Sophia Children's Hospital, Rotterdam, The Netherlands

2 Netherlands Vaccine Institute, Laboratory for Vaccine Development, Bilthoven, The Netherlands

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Critical Care 2006, 10:R33  doi:10.1186/cc4836

Published: 20 February 2006



Chemokines are a superfamily of small peptides involved in leukocyte chemotaxis and in the induction of cytokines in a wide range of infectious diseases. Little is known about their role in meningococcal sepsis in children and their relationship with disease severity and outcome.


Monocyte chemoattractant protein (MCP)-1, macrophage inflammatory protein (MIP) 1α, growth-related gene product (GRO)-α and interleukin (IL)-8 were measured in 58 children with meningococcal sepsis or septic shock on admission and 24 hours thereafter. Nine patients died. Serum chemokine levels of survivors and nonsurvivors were compared, and the chemokine levels were correlated with prognostic disease severity scores and various laboratory parameters.


Extremely high levels of all chemokines were measured in the children's acute-phase sera. These levels were significantly higher in nonsurvivors compared with survivors and in patients with septic shock compared with patients with sepsis (P < 0.0001). The cutoff values of 65,407 pg/ml, 85,427 pg/ml and 460 pg/ml for monocyte chemoattractant protein, for IL-8 and for macrophage inflammatory protein 1α, respectively, all had 100% sensitivity and 94–98% specificity for nonsurvival. Chemokine levels correlated better with disease outcome and severity than tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α and correlated similarly to interleukin (IL)-6. In available samples 24 hours after admission, a dramatic decrease of chemokine levels was seen.


Initial-phase serum levels of chemokines in patients with meningococcal sepsis can predict mortality and can correlate strongly with disease severity. Chemokines may play a key role in the pathophysiology of meningococcal disease and are potentially new targets for therapeutic approaches.