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Detecting specific infections in children through host responses: a paradigm shift

Mejias, Asuncion; Suarez, Nicolas M.; Ramilo, Octavio

Current Opinion in Infectious Diseases: June 2014 - Volume 27 - Issue 3 - p 228–235
doi: 10.1097/QCO.0000000000000065

Purpose of review There is a need for improved diagnosis and for optimal classification of patients with infectious diseases. An alternative approach to the pathogen-detection strategy is based on a comprehensive analysis of the host response to the infection. This review focuses on the value of transcriptome analyses of blood leukocytes for the diagnosis and management of patients with infectious diseases.

Recent findings Initial studies showed that RNA from blood leukocytes of children with acute viral and bacterial infections carried pathogen-specific transcriptional signatures. Subsequently, transcriptional signatures for several other infections have been described and validated in humans with malaria, dengue, salmonella, melioidosis, respiratory syncytial virus, influenza, tuberculosis, and HIV. In addition, transcriptome analyses represent an invaluable tool to understand disease pathogenesis and to objectively classify patients according to the clinical severity.

Summary Microarray studies have been shown to be highly reproducible using different platforms, and in different patient populations, confirming the value of blood transcriptome analyses to study pathogen-specific host immune responses in the clinical setting. Combining the detection of the pathogen with a comprehensive assessment of the host immune response will provide a new understanding of the correlations between specific causative agents, the host response, and the clinical manifestations of the disease.

Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases, Center for Vaccines and Immunity, Nationwide Children's Hospital, The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, USA

Correspondence to Octavio Ramilo, MD, Section of Infectious Diseases, Nationwide Children's Hospital, Columbus, OH 43205, USA. Tel: +1 614 722 3416; e-mail:

© 2014 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.