Each infectious agent represents a unique combination of pathogen-associated molecular patterns that interact with specific pattern-recognition receptors expressed on immune cells. Therefore, we surmised that the blood immune cells of individuals with different infections might bear discriminative transcriptional signatures. Gene expression profiles were obtained for 131 peripheral blood samples from pediatric patients with acute infections caused by influenza A virus, Gram-negative (Escherichia coli) or Gram-positive (Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus pneumoniae) bacteria. Thirty-five genes were identified that best discriminate patients with influenza A virus infection from patients with either E coli or S pneumoniae infection. These genes classified with 95% accuracy (35 of 37 samples) an independent set of patients with either influenza A, E coli, or S pneumoniae infection. A different signature discriminated patients with E coli versus S aureus infections with 85% accuracy (34 of 40). Furthermore, distinctive gene expression patterns were observed in patients presenting with respiratory infections of different etiologies. Thus, microarray analyses of patient peripheral blood leukocytes might assist in the differential diagnosis of infectious diseases.
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