J Clin Med. 2022 Dec 9;11(24):7324. doi: 10.3390/jcm11247324.
C-reactive protein (CRP) or procalcitonin (PCT) alone has limitations in the early detection of infection or inflammation due to shortcomings in specificity and varied cut-off values. Recently, interleukin (IL)-6 has been assessed, but it is not known to what extent the three values are homogeneous in reality. This retrospective study was conducted with two large datasets (discrepancy set with results within 24 h of admission [7149 patients] and follow-up set until 2 weeks of hospital stay [5261 tests]) consisting of simultaneous examinations of CRP, PCT, and IL-6 between January 2015 and August 2021. The specific discrepant group (n = 102, 1.4%) with normal CRP (<10 mg/L) and PCT (<0.1 ng/mL) and high IL-6 (≥100 pg/mL) values was extracted from the discrepancy set. Dimensionality reduction and visualization were performed using Python. The three markers were not clearly clustered after t-distributed stochastic neighbor embedding. Pearson's correlation coefficients between two markers were substantially low (0.23-0.55). Among the high normalized IL-6 levels (≥0.5) (n = 349), 17.8% and 38.7% of CRP and PCT levels were very low (≤0.01). 9.2% and 13.4% of normal CRP (n = 1522) had high PCT (≥0.5 ng/mL) and IL-6 (≥100 pg/mL) values, respectively. Infection and bacteremia among 102 patients occurred in 36 (35.3%) and 9 (8.8%) patients, respectively. In patients with bacteremia, IL-6 was the first to increase, followed by PCT and CRP. Our study revealed that CRP, PCT, and IL-6 levels were considerably discrepant, which could be misinterpreted if only CRP tests are performed.