BACKGROUND: Severe dengue virus (DENV) infection involves plasma leakage and vascular collapse, and leads to significant morbidity and death. Serum soluble ST2 (sST2 [interleukin (IL)-1 receptor like-1 protein: IL-1-RL-1]) levels are high in pediatric cases of DENV infection, and the disease progresses. However, the correlation between serum sST2 levels and the outcomes of DENV infection in the elderly (≥65 years) is unclear. We thus explored the mechanisms of serial sST2 level changes involved in the coagulopathy and bloodstream infections of elderly patients in Taiwan's 2015 DENV outbreak. METHODS: This retrospective study was done in a tertiary medical center in southern Taiwan during the outbreak. All DENV-infected patients who, between July 1, 2015, and December 31, 2015, provided a written informed consent for at least two blood sample analyses were enrolled and reviewed. The serum levels of sST2 were quantified. ΔsST2 is defined as the "changes of sST2 levels in serially paired samples". Receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve and area under the ROC curve (AUC) analyses were used to evaluate the prognostic ability of ΔsST2. RESULTS: Forty-three patients with DENV infection were enrolled. Mean patient age was 75.0 ± 12.2 years and the case fatality rate was 44.2% (19/43). Significantly more non-survivors than survivors had increased ST2 level (78.9% vs. 12.5%, p < 0.001). The AUC value for serum ΔsST2 level was 0.857 for predicting DENV fatality. Moreover, patients given frozen fresh plasma (FFP) transfusions were significantly (p = 0.025) more likely to have higher serum ST2 level changes than were those who had not. DENV-infected patients with early bloodstream infections (BSIs) seemed to have higher ST2 levels than those who did not have BSIs. CONCLUSIONS: Serum ST2 levels increased in the elderly (≥ 65 years of age) with DENV infection. The changes in serum sST2 levels might be a critical indicator of DENV infection severity for the elderly; sST2 is an important modulator of coagulopathy in severe DENV infections.
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