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Procalcitonin (PCT) is the 116 amino acid precursor of the hormone calcitonin, produced by the C cells of the thyroid. Its synthesis is upregulated in bacterial infection and downregulated by viral infection. Consequently, with the increasing development of antibiotic resistance, interest has focused on the ability of this marker to not only diagnose infection but to tailor antibiotic treatment and help reduce the development of antibiotic resistance. The value of PCT depends on the specific clinical situation and pretest probability of disease. This article discusses the role of PCT in these different situations, namely primary care, the emergency department and the intensive care unit. The true cost effectiveness of this test remains difficult to prove as evidence for the potential impact of using PCT on slowing the development of bacterial resistance remains largely circumstantial.


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