Seeking diagnostic and prognostic biomarkers for childhood bacterial pneumonia in sub-Saharan Africa: study protocol for an observational study

Clarissa Valim, Yekin Ajauoi Olatunji, Yasir Shitu Isa, Rasheed Salaudeen, Sarwar Golam, Edward F Knol, Sheriffo Kanyi, Abdoulie Jammeh, Quique Bassat, Wilco de Jager, Alejandro A Diaz, Roger C Wiegand, Julio Ramirez, Marsha A Moses, Umberto D'Alessandro, Patricia L Hibberd, Grant A Mackenzie

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

5 Downloads (Pure)


INTRODUCTION: Clinically diagnosed pneumonia in children is a leading cause of paediatric hospitalisation and mortality. The aetiology is usually bacterial or viral, but malaria can cause a syndrome indistinguishable from clinical pneumonia. There is no method with high sensitivity to detect a bacterial infection in these patients and, as result, antibiotics are frequently overprescribed. Conversely, unrecognised concomitant bacterial infection in patients with malarial infections occur with omission of antibiotic therapy from patients with bacterial infections. Previously, we identified two combinations of blood proteins with 96% sensitivity and 86% specificity for detecting bacterial disease. The current project aimed to validate and improve these combinations by evaluating additional biomarkers in paediatric patients with clinical pneumonia. Our goal was to describe combinations of a limited number of proteins with high sensitivity and specificity for bacterial infection to be incorporated in future point-of-care tests. Furthermore, we seek to explore signatures to prognosticate clinical pneumonia.

METHODS AND ANALYSIS: Patients (n=900) aged 2-59 months presenting with clinical pneumonia at two Gambian hospitals will be enrolled and classified according to criteria for definitive bacterial aetiology (based on microbiological tests and chest radiographs). We will measure proteins at admission using Luminex-based immunoassays in 90 children with definitive and 160 with probable bacterial aetiology, and 160 children classified according to the prognosis of their disease. Previously identified diagnostic signatures will be assessed through accuracy measures. Moreover, we will seek new diagnostic and prognostic signatures through machine learning methods, including support vector machine, penalised regression and classification trees.

ETHICS AND DISSEMINATION: Ethics approval has been obtained from the Gambia Government/Medical Research Council Unit The Gambia Joint Ethics Committee (protocol 1616) and the institutional review board of Boston University Medical Centre (STUDY00000958). Study results will be disseminated to the staff of the study hospitals, in scientific seminars and meetings, and in publications.


Original languageEnglish
Article numbere046590
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 30 Sept 2021


  • diagnostic microbiology
  • paediatric infectious disease & immunisation
  • paediatric thoracic medicine
  • respiratory infections


Dive into the research topics of 'Seeking diagnostic and prognostic biomarkers for childhood bacterial pneumonia in sub-Saharan Africa: study protocol for an observational study'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this