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Reference Guide
C-Reactive Protein
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C-Reactive Protein
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C-Reactive Protein

C-reactive protein (CRP) is a potent indicator of inflammation within the body. This section unveils the essence of CRP as a biomarker, shedding light on its biochemical nature and its crucial role in clinical diagnostics and disease management.

CRP, a protein synthesized by the liver in response to inflammatory stimuli, is a sentinel of the body's immune response against infection, injury, or tissue damage. Its rapid increase in circulation during acute-phase responses makes it a valuable tool for clinicians in diagnosing and monitoring various medical conditions characterized by inflammation.

The significance of CRP extends beyond acute inflammation, as elevated levels have been associated with chronic inflammatory diseases such as cardiovascular disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and metabolic disorders. Thus, CRP serves not only as a marker of acute infection but also as a predictor of long-term health outcomes.

Understanding C-Reactive Protein: What is CRP?

Definition and Biochemical Properties of CRP: What Does CRP Mean?  [7.] 

CRP, a pentameric protein composed of five identical subunits, belongs to the class of acute-phase proteins produced by the liver. 

Structurally, CRP consists of five non-covalently bound subunits arranged symmetrically around a central pore. This unique configuration allows CRP to bind to various ligands, including phosphocholine residues present on the surface of damaged cells, pathogens, and cellular debris, initiating the complement cascade and facilitating clearance of the target by phagocytic cells.

CRP is induced by IL-6 during the acute phase of inflammatory processes. It exhibits both proinflammatory and anti-inflammatory properties, aiding in the recognition and clearance of foreign pathogens and damaged cells. 

While it can protect lung tissue from damage, dysregulation may contribute to conditions like systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) but this remains uncertain. 

Elevated CRP levels, in contrast to erythrocyte sedimentation rate, reflect acute inflammation more rapidly. Persistently high levels are seen in chronic inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, with infectious causes typically resulting in markedly elevated levels. 

Various acute and chronic infectious and non-infectious conditions can lead to elevated CRP levels, with trauma also triggering its increase.

Physiological Role of CRP in the Immune Response and in Disease:  What Does CRP Measure?  [9., 14.]

CRP plays a pivotal role in the innate immune response, serving as an early responder to tissue injury, infection, or inflammation. Upon encountering inflammatory stimuli such as pro-inflammatory cytokines (e.g., interleukin-6), the liver rapidly synthesizes and releases CRP into the bloodstream. 

CRP aids in the recognition and opsonization of foreign invaders and damaged cells, promoting their clearance by phagocytic cells such as macrophages and neutrophils. Additionally, CRP modulates immune responses by interacting with complement proteins, promoting inflammation, and facilitating tissue repair and regeneration.

As a prominent marker of inflammation, CRP is implicated in various diseases including cardiovascular conditions, where elevated levels predict risk and prognosis. It also aids in diagnosing conditions like appendicitis, cholecystitis, pancreatitis, and meningitis. However, while its precise role in disease pathology remains unclear, recent studies emphasize its distinct isoforms, particularly native CRP (nCRP) and monomeric CRP (mCRP), showcasing differential effects. 

nCRP, mainly anti-inflammatory, inhibits complement activation and promotes phagocytosis, while mCRP, pro-inflammatory, enhances leukocyte recruitment and delays apoptosis. 

Although widely studied in cardiovascular contexts, CRP's role in infections is also important, as it binds to pathogens like Streptococcus pneumoniae and Salmonella enterica, facilitating opsonization and phagocytosis. 

Moreover, CRP activates the complement pathway, predominantly the classical pathway, but also inhibits the alternative pathway, modulating immune responses. Understanding these isoform-specific functions is crucial for targeted therapeutic interventions and elucidating CRP's diverse roles in immunity and disease.

Factors Influencing CRP Production and Regulation

The production and regulation of CRP are influenced by various factors, including cytokines, hormones, and genetic predisposition. 

Pro-inflammatory cytokines, notably interleukin-6 (IL-6), tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha), and interleukin-1 (IL-1), serve as primary inducers of CRP synthesis, stimulating hepatocytes to produce and release CRP into circulation. 

Hormonal factors such as cortisol and estrogen, also modulate CRP production.  Cortisol seems to elevate CRP levels, possibly due to its relationship with elevated abdominal adiposity.  Stress and co-occurring elevated CRP have been documented.  [5., 17.]

Exogenous estrogen, administered as part of hormone replacement therapy, seems to elevate CRP, although endogenous estrogen levels may decrease CRP.  [3., 10.]  This illustrates the complex interplay between the immune and endocrine systems.  

Genetic polymorphisms within the CRP gene locus have been associated with differential CRP levels, highlighting the genetic determinants of CRP expression and its variability among individuals.  For example, the IL6 SNPs -174G/C and -572C>G, the TNF-α G-308A and IL1B -511C/T and 3954C/T SNPs have all been associated with baseline CRP levels.  [13.]

Lab Testing for C-Reactive Protein

Sample Collection and Processing

Blood samples for CRP testing are typically collected using standard venipuncture techniques.  Fasting may be required by your ordering healthcare provider.

Clinical Interpretation of CRP Test Results

Interpreting CRP test results requires consideration of various factors, including the patient's clinical history, the presence of underlying inflammatory conditions, and the reference range established by the laboratory. Elevated CRP levels are indicative of systemic inflammation and may suggest the presence of infectious diseases, autoimmune disorders, or other inflammatory conditions. Serial monitoring of CRP levels over time can provide valuable information about disease progression, response to treatment, and prognosis, guiding clinical management decisions.

Reference Range for CRP

While it is important to consult the lab company used for individual reference ranges, CRP reference ranges are typically given as:  [8.]

Low: < 1.0 mg/dL

Average: 1.0-3.0 mg/dL

High: >3.0 mg/dL

Clinical Indications for CRP Testing

CRP testing is indicated in various clinical scenarios, including the evaluation of suspected infections, inflammatory diseases, and cardiovascular risk assessment. 

Elevated CRP levels may aid in the diagnosis and monitoring of conditions such as bacterial or viral infections, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, and acute coronary syndrome. 

Additionally, CRP testing may be used as a prognostic marker in predicting adverse outcomes in patients with cardiovascular disease, sepsis, or other inflammatory disorders.

Clinical Significance of High C-reactive Protein Levels

Elevated C-Reactive Protein (CRP) levels serve as a significant indicator of systemic inflammation and can signal underlying health conditions. 

Association with Cardiovascular Disease  [2.]

High CRP levels have been strongly associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) including coronary artery disease, myocardial infarction, and stroke. Chronic inflammation plays a crucial role in the development and progression of atherosclerosis, the underlying pathology of most CVDs. 

Elevated CRP levels serve as an independent predictor of future cardiovascular events, providing valuable prognostic information beyond traditional risk factors.

Predictive Marker for Metabolic Syndrome and Diabetes  [16.]

Chronic low-grade inflammation, reflected by elevated CRP levels, is a hallmark feature of metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes mellitus. 

High CRP levels are commonly observed in individuals with insulin resistance, obesity, dyslipidemia, and hypertension, collectively comprising the metabolic syndrome.

Elevated CRP levels may predict the development of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular complications in individuals with insulin resistance and impaired glucose metabolism.

Role in Rheumatic and Autoimmune Diseases [11., 15.]

Inflammatory rheumatic and autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, and psoriatic arthritis, are characterized by dysregulated immune responses and chronic inflammation. 

Elevated CRP levels serve as a marker of disease activity and severity in these conditions, reflecting ongoing inflammation, joint damage, and systemic manifestations. Serial monitoring of CRP levels aids in assessing treatment response, guiding therapeutic decisions, and predicting disease outcomes.

Diagnostic Marker for Infections  [7.]

Acute infections, whether bacterial, viral, or fungal, elicit an inflammatory response characterized by elevated CRP levels. CRP serves as a sensitive marker of acute-phase reactants, rising rapidly within hours of infection onset. 

Measurement of CRP levels aids in diagnosing and monitoring infectious diseases, guiding antimicrobial therapy, and assessing the resolution of infection. Persistent elevation of CRP levels may indicate ongoing infection or complications requiring further evaluation.

Prognostic Indicator in Cancer  [2.]

Chronic inflammation plays a pivotal role in cancer development, progression, and metastasis. Elevated CRP levels have been associated with increased cancer risk and poorer prognosis in various malignancies, including colorectal cancer, pancreatic cancer, and prostate cancer. High CRP levels may reflect tumor-related inflammation, tumor burden, and an aggressive tumor phenotype, contributing to adverse outcomes and reduced survival rates.

Testing Biomarkers Related C-reactive Protein 

In addition to C-Reactive Protein (CRP), several other biomarkers may be assessed concurrently to provide a comprehensive evaluation of inflammatory processes, immune response, and overall health status. 

Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate (ESR)

The erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR), also known as the sedimentation rate or "sed rate," measures the rate at which red blood cells settle in a vertical column of blood over a specific time period. ESR is a nonspecific marker of inflammation, influenced by factors such as plasma protein concentration and red blood cell aggregation. 

Elevated ESR levels are indicative of systemic inflammation and may correlate with various inflammatory conditions, including infections, autoimmune diseases, and malignancies. Combining ESR with CRP testing can enhance the sensitivity of inflammation detection and aid in differential diagnosis.

White Blood Cell Count (WBC)

The white blood cell count (WBC) measures the total number of leukocytes (white blood cells) circulating in the bloodstream and serves as a marker of systemic inflammation and immune response. 

Elevated WBC counts are commonly observed in response to infections, inflammatory conditions, and tissue injury. Combining WBC count with CRP testing provides complementary information about the intensity and duration of the inflammatory process, aiding in the assessment of disease severity and monitoring treatment response.

Interleukin-6 (IL-6)

Interleukin-6 (IL-6) is a pro-inflammatory cytokine produced by various cell types, including macrophages, T cells, and endothelial cells, in response to infection, trauma, or tissue damage. IL-6 plays a pivotal role in the acute-phase response and regulates immune and inflammatory processes. 

Measurement of serum IL-6 levels alongside CRP testing provides additional insights into the inflammatory cascade's activation and helps elucidate the underlying pathophysiology of inflammatory conditions.


Fibrinogen is a plasma protein involved in blood clot formation and inflammation. Fibrinogen levels increase during acute phase reactions, contributing to thrombus formation and tissue repair processes. 

Elevated fibrinogen levels are associated with inflammatory conditions, cardiovascular disease, and thrombotic events. Assessing fibrinogen levels alongside CRP testing enhances the evaluation of inflammation and thrombotic risk, particularly in patients with cardiovascular disease or thrombophilic disorders.


Procalcitonin is a valuable biomarker used alongside CRP in clinical settings to assess the severity of bacterial infections and guide antibiotic therapy. 

Unlike CRP, procalcitonin levels rise rapidly and specifically in response to bacterial infections, aiding clinicians in distinguishing bacterial from non-bacterial causes of inflammation and guiding appropriate antibiotic use. 

Combining procalcitonin with CRP provides a more comprehensive assessment of the inflammatory response, aiding in the timely and targeted management of infections.

How to Lower C-reactive Protein Levels

Reducing C-Reactive Protein (CRP) levels is often a key goal in managing inflammatory conditions and improving overall health.   

Dietary Interventions  [6.]

  • Adopt an anti-inflammatory diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats like those found in fatty fish, nuts, and olive oil.
  • Minimize intake of pro-inflammatory foods such as processed meats, refined carbohydrates, and sugary beverages.
  • Incorporate anti-inflammatory spices and herbs like turmeric, ginger, and garlic into meals.

Weight Management  [12.]

  • Achieve and maintain a healthy weight through a balanced diet and regular physical activity.
  • Losing excess body fat, especially visceral fat, can decrease circulating CRP levels and improve metabolic health.

Regular Exercise  [4.] 

  • Engage in regular exercise including aerobic activities, strength training, and flexibility exercises.
  • Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise per week, supplemented with strength training.

Stress Management  [5.]

  • Implement stress management techniques such as mindfulness meditation, deep breathing exercises, yoga, and progressive muscle relaxation.
  • Prioritize self-care activities, engage in hobbies, and foster social connections to promote emotional well-being and mitigate chronic inflammation.

Smoking Cessation  [18.]

  • Quit smoking to significantly lower CRP levels and reduce inflammation.
  • Utilize smoking cessation resources such as counseling, nicotine replacement therapy, or prescription medications.

Pharmacological Interventions

  • In some cases, pharmacological interventions like NSAIDs, corticosteroids, or DMARDs may be prescribed to alleviate inflammation and suppress CRP production, especially in inflammatory disorders.
  • Use pharmacological interventions judiciously and under the guidance of a healthcare professional, considering individual patient factors and potential side effects.

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C-Reactive Protein
C-Reactive Protein (CRP) is a substance created by the liver when there is inflammation or injury in the body. It acts like a warning signal, letting the body know where it needs to fix or protect itself. When there is damage or inflammation, CRP levels increase as part of the body's natural defense system. This protein plays an important role in your immune response, helping to remove damaged cells or harmful substances like bacteria. It serves as a communication link between your immune system and the rest of your body, ensuring that your body's defense mechanisms work effectively.
If Your Levels Are High
Elevated C-Reactive Protein levels might mean that your body is dealing with more inflammation or damage than usual. This can happen for various reasons, such as fighting off an infection, healing from an injury, or dealing with an autoimmune condition where your immune system accidentally attacks your own cells. Sometimes, lifestyle factors like an unhealthy diet, not getting enough exercise, or being under a lot of stress can also cause higher CRP levels. Certain medications, like birth control pills or anti-inflammatory drugs, might also play a role in raising your CRP levels. Keep in mind that CRP is a general sign of inflammation and doesn't pinpoint the exact location or cause of the issue.
Symptoms of High Levels
Symptoms of high levels of C-Reactive Protein are not specific and can vary widely, as this protein is a general marker of inflammation. However, some people may experience fatigue, low-grade fever, or muscle stiffness.
If Your Levels are Low
Low levels of C-Reactive Protein (CRP) might suggest that there's less inflammation happening in your body. This could be a result of various factors such as maintaining a healthy lifestyle, eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, or managing stress effectively. Taking certain medications, like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or steroids, could also contribute to lower CRP levels. However, it's important to keep in mind that low CRP levels might also indicate a weaker immune system, which could have a harder time responding to injuries or infections.
Symptoms of Low Levels
Symptoms of low levels of C-Reactive Protein are typically not noticeable, as this condition often doesn't present with specific symptoms.
See References

[1.] Çolak A, Yılmaz C, Toprak B, Aktoğu S. Procalcitonin and CRP as Biomarkers in Discrimination of Community-acquired Pneumonia and Exacerbation of COPD. J Med Biochem. 2017 Apr 22;36(2):122-126. doi: 10.1515/jomb-2017-0011. PMID: 28680355; PMCID: PMC5471644.

[2.] Emerging Risk Factors Collaboration; Kaptoge S, Di Angelantonio E, Lowe G, Pepys MB, Thompson SG, Collins R, Danesh J. C-reactive protein concentration and risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, and mortality: an individual participant meta-analysis. Lancet. 2010 Jan 9;375(9709):132-40. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(09)61717-7. Epub 2009 Dec 22. PMID: 20031199; PMCID: PMC3162187. 

[3.] Gaskins AJ, Wilchesky M, Mumford SL, Whitcomb BW, Browne RW, Wactawski-Wende J, Perkins NJ, Schisterman EF. Endogenous reproductive hormones and C-reactive protein across the menstrual cycle: the BioCycle Study. Am J Epidemiol. 2012 Mar 1;175(5):423-31. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwr343. Epub 2012 Feb 3. PMID: 22306563; PMCID: PMC3282877. 

[4.] Kasapis C, Thompson PD. The effects of physical activity on serum C-reactive protein and inflammatory markers: a systematic review. Journal of the American College of Cardiology. 2005;45(10):1563-1569. doi: 

[5.] Kennedy E, Niedzwiedz CL. The association of anxiety and stress-related disorders with C-reactive protein (CRP) within UK Biobank. Brain, Behavior, & Immunity - Health. 2022;19:100410. doi: 

[6.] Lahoz C, Castillo E, Mostaza JM, de Dios O, Salinero-Fort MA, González-Alegre T, García-Iglesias F, Estirado E, Laguna F, Sanchez V, Sabín C, López S, Cornejo V, de Burgos C, Garcés C; Investigators of the SPREDIA-2 Group. Relationship of the Adherence to a Mediterranean Diet and Its Main Components with CRP Levels in the Spanish Population. Nutrients. 2018 Mar 20;10(3):379. doi: 10.3390/nu10030379. PMID: 29558396; PMCID: PMC5872797.

[7.] Nehring SM, Goyal A, Patel BC. C Reactive Protein. [Updated 2023 Jul 10]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2024 Jan-. Available from: 

[8.] Pagana KD, Pagana TJ, Pagana TN. Mosby’s Diagnostic & Laboratory Test Reference. 14th ed. St. Louis, Mo: Elsevier; 2019.

[9.] Peisajovich A, Marnell L, Mold C, Du Clos TW. C-reactive protein at the interface between innate immunity and inflammation. Expert Rev Clin Immunol. 2008 May;4(3):379-90. doi: 10.1586/1744666X.4.3.379. PMID: 20476927.

[10.] Ridker PM, Hennekens CH, Rifai N, Buring JE, Manson JE. Hormone Replacement Therapy and Increased Plasma Concentration of C-Reactive Protein. Circulation. 1999;100(7):713-716. doi: 

[11.] Rizo-Téllez SA, Sekheri M, Filep JG. C-reactive protein: a target for therapy to reduce inflammation. Frontiers in Immunology. 2023;14:1237729. doi: 

[12.] Selvin E. The Effect of Weight Loss on C-Reactive Protein. Archives of Internal Medicine. 2007;167(1):31. doi: ‌

[13.] Shen J, Ordovas JM. Impact of genetic and environmental factors on hsCRP concentrations and response to therapeutic agents. Clin Chem. 2009 Feb;55(2):256-64. doi: 10.1373/clinchem.2008.117754. Epub 2008 Dec 12. PMID: 19074515; PMCID: PMC3272500. 

[14.] Sproston NR, Ashworth JJ. Role of C-Reactive Protein at Sites of Inflammation and Infection. Front Immunol. 2018 Apr 13;9:754. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2018.00754. PMID: 29706967; PMCID: PMC5908901. 

[15.] Szalai AJ. C-reactive protein (CRP) and autoimmune disease: facts and conjectures. Clin Dev Immunol. 2004 Sep-Dec;11(3-4):221-6. doi: 10.1080/17402520400001751. PMID: 15559367; PMCID: PMC2486333.

[16.] Thorand B, Löwel H, Schneider A, et al. C-Reactive Protein as a Predictor for Incident Diabetes Mellitus Among Middle-aged Men. Archives of Internal Medicine. 2003;163(1):93. doi: 

[17.] Tolmay CM, Malan L, van Rooyen JM. The relationship between cortisol, C-reactive protein and hypertension in African and Causcasian women: the POWIRS study. Cardiovasc J Afr. 2012 Mar;23(2):78-84. doi: 10.5830/CVJA-2011-035. PMID: 22447476; PMCID: PMC3721929. 

[18.] Tonstad S, Cowan JL. C-reactive protein as a predictor of disease in smokers and former smokers: a review. Int J Clin Pract. 2009 Nov;63(11):1634-41. doi: 10.1111/j.1742-1241.2009.02179.x. Epub 2009 Aug 29. PMID: 19732183; PMCID: PMC2780563.

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C-Reactive Protein

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