Open Access Open Badges Research article

Copeptin concentration in cord blood in infants with early-onset sepsis, chorioamnionitis and perinatal asphyxia

Luregn J Schlapbach1*, Stefanie Frey1, Susanna Bigler2, Chiem Manh-Nhi3, Christoph Aebi12, Mathias Nelle1 and Jean-Marc Nuoffer13

Author Affiliations

1 Neonatal and Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, Department of Pediatrics, University of Bern, 3010 Bern, Switzerland

2 Institute for Infectious Diseases, University of Bern, 3010 Bern, Switzerland

3 University Institute for Clinical Chemistry, University of Bern, 3010 Bern, Switzerland

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BMC Pediatrics 2011, 11:38  doi:10.1186/1471-2431-11-38

Published: 19 May 2011



Vasopressin is one of the most important physiological stress and shock hormones. Copeptin, a stable vasopressin precursor, is a promising sepsis marker in adults. In contrast, its involvement in neonatal diseases remains unknown. The aim of this study was to establish copeptin concentrations in neonates of different stress states such as sepsis, chorioamnionitis and asphyxia.


Copeptin cord blood concentration was determined using the BRAHMS kryptor assay. Neonates with early-onset sepsis (EOS, n = 30), chorioamnionitis (n = 33) and asphyxia (n = 25) were compared to a control group of preterm and term (n = 155) neonates.


Median copeptin concentration in cord blood was 36 pmol/l ranging from undetectable to 5498 pmol/l (IQR 7 - 419). Copeptin cord blood concentrations were non-normally distributed and increased with gestational age (p < 0.0001). Neonates born after vaginal compared to cesarean delivery had elevated copeptin levels (p < 0.0001). Copeptin correlated strongly with umbilical artery pH (Spearman's Rho -0.50, p < 0.0001), umbilical artery base excess (Rho -0.67, p < 0.0001) and with lactate at NICU admission (Rho 0.54, p < 0.0001). No difference was found when comparing copeptin cord blood concentrations between neonates with EOS and controls (multivariate p = 0.30). The highest copeptin concentrations were found in neonates with asphyxia (median 993 pmol/l). Receiver-operating-characteristic curve analysis showed that copeptin cord blood concentrations were strongly associated with asphyxia: the area under the curve resulted at 0.91 (95%-CI 0.87-0.96, p < 0.0001). A cut-off of 400 pmol/l had a sensitivity of 92% and a specifity of 82% for asphyxia as defined in this study.


Copeptin concentrations were strongly related to factors associated with perinatal stress such as birth acidosis, asphyxia and vaginal delivery. In contrast, copeptin appears to be unsuitable for the diagnosis of EOS.

asphyxia; early-onset sepsis; copeptin; neonate; vasopressin