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The diagnostic significance of procalcitonin concentrations in lower respiratory tract infections and tuberculosis is not known. A prospective analysis was, therefore, performed in patients with acute exacerbation of chronic bronchitis (AECB), community-acquired pneumonia (CAP), hospital-acquired pneumonia (HAP) and tuberculosis and their procalcitonin levels compared with those of patients with noninfectious lung diseases (controls). In addition, standard inflammatory parameter data were collected. A prospective clinical study was performed with four different groups of patients and a control group that consisted of patients with noninfectious lung diseases. A total of 129 patients were included: 25 with HAP, 26 CAP, 26 AECB, 27 tuberculosis, and 25 controls. C-reactive protein level, blood cell counts and procalcitonin concentration were evaluated on the first day after onset of clinical and inflammatory symptoms prior to treatment. The median procalcitonin concentrations in HAP, CAP, AECB and tuberculosis were not elevated in relation to the cut-off level of 0.5 ng x mL(-1). In the HAP group, in four of five patients who subsequently died, procalcitonin concentrations of >0.5 ng x mL(-1) were found. In acute lower respiratory infections, such as HAP, CAP and AECB, significantly elevated levels were found in comparison to the control group, but below the usual cut-off level. No differences were observed between tuberculosis and the control group. Relative to the current cut-off level of 0.5 ng x mL(-1), procalcitonin concentration is not a useful parameter for diagnosis of lower respiratory tract infections. However, compared to the control group, there were significantly elevated levels in patients with hospital-acquired pneumonia, community-acquired pneumonia and acute exacerbation of chronic bronchitis below the current cut-off level, which should be further investigated.