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What is the performance of novel synovial biomarkers for detecting periprosthetic joint infection in the presence of inflammatory joint disease?

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The aim of this study was to further evaluate the accuracy of ten promising synovial biomarkers (bactericidal/permeability-increasing protein (BPI), lactoferrin (LTF), neutrophil gelatinase-associated lipocalin (NGAL), neutrophil elastase 2 (ELA-2), α-defensin, cathelicidin LL-37 (LL-37), human β-defensin (HBD-2), human β-defensin 3 (HBD-3), D-dimer, and procalcitonin (PCT)) for the diagnosis of periprosthetic joint infection (PJI), and to investigate whether inflammatory joint disease (IJD) activity affects their concentration in synovial fluid.


We included 50 synovial fluid samples from patients with (n = 25) and without (n = 25) confirmed PJI from an institutional tissue bank collected between May 2015 and December 2016. We also included 22 synovial fluid samples aspirated from patients with active IJD presenting to Department of Rheumatology, the first Medical Centre, Chinese PLA General Hospital. Concentrations of the ten candidate biomarkers were measured in the synovial fluid samples using standard enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISA). The diagnostic accuracy was evaluated by receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curves.


BPI, LTF, NGAL, ELA-2, and α-defensin were well-performing biomarkers for detecting PJI, with areas under the curve (AUCs) of 1.000 (95% confidence interval, 1.000 to 1.000), 1.000 (1.000 to 1.000), 1.000 (1.000 to 1.000), 1.000 (1.000 to 1.000), and 0.998 (0.994 to 1.000), respectively. The other markers (LL-37, HBD-2, D-dimer, PCT, and HBD-3) had limited diagnostic value. For the five well-performing biomarkers, elevated concentrations were observed in patients with active IJD. The original best thresholds determined by the Youden index, which discriminated PJI cases from non-PJI cases could not discriminate PJI cases from active IJD cases, while elevated thresholds resulted in good performance.


BPI, LTF, NGAL, ELA-2, and α-defensin demonstrated excellent performance for diagnosing PJI. However, all five markers showed elevated concentrations in patients with IJD activity. For patients with IJD, elevated thresholds should be considered to accurately diagnose PJI.

Cite this article: Bone Joint J 2021;103-B(1):32–38.

Correspondence should be sent to Ji-Ying Chen. E-mail:

R. Li and X. Li contributed equally to this work.

W. Chai and J-Y. Chen contributed equally to this work.

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