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Gastroenterology. 2008 Sep;135(3):803-7. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2008.05.045. Epub 2008 May 21.

Ascitic fluid lactoferrin for diagnosis of spontaneous bacterial peritonitis.

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Digestive Disease Institute, Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland, Ohio 44195, USA.



The diagnosis of spontaneous bacterial peritonitis (SBP) is based on a manual count of ascitic fluid polymorphonuclear cells (PMNs). This procedure is operator-dependent and lysis of PMNs during transport to the laboratory may lead to false-negative results. Furthermore, ascitic fluid culture is insensitive and leads to delays in diagnosis. The aim of this study was to assess the utility of ascitic fluid lactoferrin (AFLAC) for the diagnosis of SBP and to identify a cut-off level that can be used for future development of a rapid bedside test.


A total of 218 consecutive ascites samples from 148 patients (1-8 samples per patient) with cirrhosis at 2 tertiary care medical centers were examined for PMN count, bedside culture, and lactoferrin concentration. AFLAC concentrations were determined using a polyclonal antibody-based enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. An ascitic fluid PMN count of 250 cells/mL or greater with or without a positive culture was used for diagnosis of SBP.


Twenty-two (10.1%) samples fulfilled diagnostic criteria for SBP. Samples with SBP had a significantly higher lactoferrin concentration (median, 3744 ng/mL; 25th-75th percentiles [P25-P75], 788-9617) compared with non-SBP samples (median, 31 ng/mL; P25-P75, 12-67; P < .001). By using a cut-off level of 242 ng/mL, the sensitivity and specificity of the assay for diagnosis of SBP were 95.5% and 97%, respectively. The area under the receiver operating characteristic curve was 0.98.


AFLAC can serve as a sensitive and specific test for diagnosis of SBP. Qualitative bedside assays for the measurement of AFLAC can be developed easily and may serve as a rapid and reliable screening tool for SBP in patients with cirrhosis.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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