Plasma lactoferrin reflects granulocyte activation via complement in burn patients

Baruch Wolach, Thomas D. Coates, Tony E. Hugli, Robert L. Baehner, Laurence A. Boxer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Complement activation and neutropenia have been observed in thermally injured animals. In burn patients, granulocyte chemotaxis and morphological loss of specific granules occur. We conjectured that complement is activated in humans and, in turn, induces granulocytes to secrete lactoferrin (LF), a marker of granulocyte activation. Twenty burn patients were evaluated for absolute granulocyte count (AGC), plasma levels of anaphylatoxins (C3a, C4a, C5a), and lactoferrin. The AGC directly correlated with the extent of the burn on day 1. Similarly, plasma LF on day 1 correlated with the percent burn. Those with >30% burn had plasma LF between 10 and 40 μg/ml (normal LF = 1.5 ± 1.8 μg/ml). In five patients without further complications followed serially, plasma LF did not return to normal until 2 to 5 weeks. In all patients, there was evidence of complement activation; C4a ranged between 283 and 13,064 ng/ml and C3a between 19 and 852 ng/ml. In some patients, C5a was detectable, but the values correlated inversely with the extent of burn. On the other hand C3a and C4a levels did not correlate with the extent of burn but threefold to fivefold rises of C3a levels on days 7 and 9 predicted gram-negative sepsis. Although plasma LF did not predict sepsis, levels >12 μg/ml on day 1 heralded the onset of neutropenia on day 3 in 60% of patients with 30% burn. Six of 20 patients developed pulmonary radiographic changes and, in five of the six, the changes occurred by day 3. Plasma LF in all six patients on day 1 was >17 μg/ml. In two patients with >50% burn, depletion of granulocyte LF was demonstrated histochemically. These studies indicate that complement is activated in burn patients, which is associated with granulocyte secretion. Measurement of plasma anaphylatoxins and LF may serve as useful aides in clinical management of these patients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)284-293
Number of pages10
JournalTranslational Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1984
Externally publishedYes


Dive into the research topics of 'Plasma lactoferrin reflects granulocyte activation via complement in burn patients'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this