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J Clin Microbiol. 1996 Apr;34(4):928-32.

To culture or not to culture: fecal lactoferrin screening for inflammatory bacterial diarrhea.

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Department of Medicine, University of Virginia School of Medicine, Charlottesville 22908, USA.


Because of its low yield in unselected specimens, stool culture is often cost ineffective. We tested 55 fecal samples from Fairfax Hospital (46 patients with diarrhea and 9 from controls without diarrhea) for lactoferrin by latex agglutination (LFLA) with the Leukotest (Techlab, Blacksburg, Va.) as a marker for inflammatory diarrhea. Of the 28 samples with Salmonella, Shigella, or Campylobacter infection, 93% had detectable fecal lactoferrin at > or = 1:50 (61% had LFLA titers of > or = 1:400), while 83% of 18 samples with rotavirus or no detectable pathogen were LFLA negative at a titer of 1:50 (100% were negative at 1:400). All 9 controls without diarrhea were LFLA negative at 1:50. The use of fecal lactoferrin to screen for inflammatory diarrhea selects specimens for which stool culture is fivefold more likely to yield an invasive bacterial pathogen (reducing the cost per positive result by over $800) and thus may greatly enhance a cost-effective approach to evaluating diarrheal illness.

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