Introduction Ferritin is the major intracellular iron binding protein in the body. Serum ferritin is an inflammatory marker. Iron sequestration is one of the innate immune responses to infection. The goal of this research was to investigate the role of serum ferritin and serum iron as clinically useful markers of infection in the paediatric emergency department.
Methods Multiple inflammatory markers, including C-reactive protein, procalcitonin, and serum ferritin, and other iron studies were measured in 37 children, from 3 months through 8 years of age, presenting to the emergency department with temperature of ≥39 degrees Celsius, and 38 patients in the same age group with non-febrile illness (controls). Patients with chronic inflammatory or rheumatologic conditions and those with renal or hepatic failure were excluded.
Results Mean serum ferritin, and ferritin/iron ratio were significantly higher among febrile children when compared to controls. Mean serum iron levels were significantly lower among febrile patients and in the subgroup of children who had bacterial infections when compared with children who had viral infections and those who had a non-infectious illness.
Conclusion Serum iron and ferritin/iron ratio may be clinically useful markers for the differentiation of bacterial from viral infection in the emergency department. Further studies are needed to confirm our findings and to further explore the role of iron metabolism in paediatric infections.