BACKGROUND: Thrombopoietin (TPO), a growth factor primarily involved in regulating thrombopoiesis, has been recently implicated in the pathogenesis of sepsis. TPO levels are, indeed, greatly increased in patients with sepsis compared to control subjects, and correlate with sepsis severity. The aim of this study was to evaluate TPO as predictive biomarker of sepsis and of sepsis severity in patients entering the emergency department (ED) with systemic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS). METHODS: This was a prospective observational study. Ours is a sub-study of the 'Need-speed trial', a multi-center observational study involving six Italian centers affiliated to the GREAT Italian Network. TPO was measured by ELISA. RESULTS: We enrolled 13 patients with SIRS (6 with acute pancreatitis, 3 with acute heart failure, 1 with pulmonary embolism, and 3 with allergic reactions), and 40 patients with sepsis, eight of whom had severe sepsis and three septic shock. TPO was significantly higher in patients with sepsis than with SIRS. In addition, TPO was higher in patients with severe sepsis than with sepsis, and in patients with septic shock than with severe sepsis, although these differences did not reach the statistical significance. CONCLUSIONS: Our preliminary results suggest that TPO may have the potential to be considered a promising early biomarker for both the diagnosis of sepsis and the assessment of sepsis severity in patients with SIRS entering the ED.
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