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Acta Paediatr. 1999 Mar;88(3):332-7.

Circulating thrombopoietin levels in neonates with infection.

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Department of Pediatrics, La Sapienza University, Rome, Italy.


Thrombocytopenia is a commonly encountered hematologic complication in neonates with sepsis. Thrombopoietin (TPO) is the principal physiologic regulator of megakariocytopoiesis and platelet production. This study was carried out to determine whether variations in circulating TPO levels would occur in infected neonates and/or if they would correlate with platelet counts. In a prospective study of 36 sick neonates (gestational age 24-42 wk) admitted to a regional Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), blood was collected for TPO measurements and platelet counts on admission to the NICU, if infection was inferred, and at recovery before discharge. An additional group of 15 apparently healthy neonates was also studied (median postnatal age at the time of blood sampling for TPO assessment: 4 d, range 1-10) as control. TPO was measured on plasma samples using a commercially available enzyme-immunosorbent assay (ELISA). On admission, the majority (21/36) of the sick neonates had non-infectious diseases, 2 had early onset sepsis, and 13 had infection (defined as the presence of clinical signs of sepsis, abnormal leukocyte counts or C-reactive protein values, and positive results on local cultures, but negative blood culture results). During the hospital stay, 5 neonates developed sepsis (positive blood culture) and 6 had infection (as previously defined) or necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC). The median TPO level (1704 pg/ml, range 51-3912) was higher during sepsis (either early or late) than during infection (included NEC) (198 pg/ml, range 21-2504), or non-infectious disease (659 pg/ml, range 0-2533), while platelet counts (median value 37,000 cells/microl, range 15,000-486,000) were lower than during either infection (included NEC) (median value 238,000 cells/microl, range 49,000-655,000) or non-infectious disease (median value 110,000 cells/microl, range 45,000-549,000). When infants had recovered from these illnesses, TPO concentrations markedly dropped (median value 59 pg/ml, range 0-825). These values were similar to those found in the control neonates (median TPO level 85 pg/ml, range 43-620). In infected neonates (sepsis plus infection), TPO levels inversely correlated with platelet counts (r = -0.634, p = 0.001) as did those of infants with non-infectious disease (r = -0.574, p = 0.006), while there was no significant correlation between TPO levels and platelet counts in the samples obtained after recovery or in the control infants. We conclude that infected neonates have high circulating TPO levels in the face of low platelet counts. Whether larger TPO concentrations following exogenous administration of recombinant TPO would restore the number of circulating platelets warrants further investigation.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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