BACKGROUND: The cerebrospinal fluid (CSF)/serum quotient of albumin (QAlb) is the most used biomarker for the evaluation of blood-cerebrospinal fluid barrier (B-CSF-B) permeability. For years QAlb was considered only as an age-related parameter but recently it has also been associated to sex. The aim of the present study was to explore the impact of sex in the determination of B-CSF-B dysfunction.
METHODS: The analysis was retrospectively conducted on subjects consecutively admitted to the neurological ward. CSF and serum albumin levels were measured by immunonephelometry and pathological QAlb thresholds were considered: 6.5 under 40 years, 8.0 in the age 40-60 and 9.0 over 60 years.
RESULTS: 1209 subjects were included in the study. 718 females and 491 males (age: 15-88 years): 24.6% of patients had a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, 23.2% suffered from other inflammatory neurological diseases, 24.6% were affected by non-inflammatory neurological diseases, and for 27.6% of patients the final neurological diagnosis could not be traced. Dysfunctional B-CSF-B was detected more frequently (44 vs. 20.1%, p < 0.0001) and median QAlb value were higher (7.18 vs. 4.87, p < 0.0001) in males than in females in the overall study population and in all disease subgroups. QAlb and age were positively correlated both in female (p < 0.0001) and male (p < 0.0001) patients, however the slopes of the two regression lines were not significantly different (p = 0.7149), while the difference between the elevations was extremely significant (p < 0.0001) with a gap of 2.2 units between the two sexes. Finally, in a multivariable linear regression analysis increased age and male sex were independently associated with higher QAlb in the overall study population (both p < 0.001) and after stratification by age and disease group.
CONCLUSIONS: Accordingly, identification and validation of sex-targeted QAlb thresholds should be considered as a novel tool in an effort to achieve more precision in the medical approach.