Background: Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a significant public health concern. The patients with acute exacerbations of COPD (AECOPD) and pneumonia have similar clinical presentations. The use of conventional diagnostic markers, such as complete blood count with differential and C-reactive protein (CRP), is the current mainstream method for differentiating clinically relevant pneumonia from other mimics. However, those conventional methods have suboptimal sensitivity and specificity for patients with a clinical suspicion of infection. The limitations often cause the ambiguity of the initiation of antibiotic treatment. Recently, our pilot study suggested that the patients with pneumonia have significantly higher plasma Sphingosine-1-phosphate (S1P) levels than controls. The initial findings suggest that plasma S1P is a potential biomarker for predicting prognosis in pneumonia. The aim of this study was to evaluate the value of S1P and CRP for discriminating COPD with pneumonia and AECOPD in an Emergency Department (ED) setting. Methods: Patients diagnosed with AECOPD or COPD with pneumonia were recruited from the Emergency Department of Wan Fang Hospital. The clinical data, demographics, and blood samples were collected upon ED admission. The concentration of plasma S1P was measured by ELISA. Results: Thirty-nine patients with AECOPD and 78 with COPD plus pneumonia were enrolled in this observational study. The levels of blood S1P and CRP were significantly higher in patients with COPD plus CAP compared to those in AE COPD patients. The area under the receiver operator characteristic (ROC) curve for the S1P and CRP for distinguishing between patients with COPD plus CAP and AECOPD is 0.939 (95% CI: 0.894–0.984) and 0.886 (95% CI: 0.826–0.945), whereas the combination of S1P and CRP yielded a value of 0.994 (95% CI: 0.897–1.000). By comparing with CRP or S1P, combining CRP and S1P had significantly higher AUC value for differentiating between the COPD with pneumonia group and the AECOPD group. Conclusions: Our findings suggest that S1P is a potential diagnostic biomarker in distinguishing COPD with CAP from AECOPD. Additionally, the diagnostic ability of S1P can be improved when used in combination with CRP.
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