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C-reactive protein (CRP) is used to discriminate common bacterial and viral infections, but its utility in tropical settings remains unknown. We performed a meta-analysis of studies performed in Asia and Africa. First, mean CRP levels for specific tropical infections were calculated. Thereafter, individual patient data (IPD) from patients with non-malarial undifferentiated fever (NMUF) who were tested for viral and bacterial pathogens were analysed, calculating separate cut-off values and their performance in classifying viral or bacterial disease. Mean CRP levels of 7307 patients from 13 countries were dengue 12.0 mg/l (standard error [SE] 2.7), chikungunya 41.0 mg/l (SE 19.5), influenza 15.9 mg/l (SE 6.3), Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever 9.7 mg/l (SE 4.7), Salmonella 61.9 mg/l (SE 5.4), Rickettsia 61.3 mg/l (SE 8.8), Coxiella burnetii 98.7 mg/l (SE 44.0) and Leptospira infections 113.8 mg/l (SE 23.1). IPD analysis of 1059 NMUF patients ≥5 y of age showed CRP <10 mg/l had 52% sensitivity (95% confidence interval [CI] 48 to 56) and 95% specificity (95% CI 93 to 97) to detect viral infections. CRP >40 mg/l had 74% sensitivity (95% CI 70 to 77) and 84% specificity (95% CI 81 to 87) to identify bacterial infections. Compared with routine care, the relative risk for incorrect classification was 0.64 (95% CI 0.55 to 0.75) and the number needed to test for one extra correctly classified case was 8 (95% CI 6 to 12). A two cut-off value CRP test may help clinicians to discriminate viral and bacterial aetiologies of NMUF in tropical areas.

Original publication





Transactions of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene

Publication Date





1130 - 1143


Department of International Health and Infectious Diseases, Radboud University Medical Centre, Nijmegen, The Netherlands.


Humans, Bacterial Infections, Malaria, Fever, C-Reactive Protein, Influenza, Human