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Influence of ethnicity on biochemical markers of health and disease in the CALIPER cohort of healthy children and adolescents

  • Houman Tahmasebi , Shervin Asgari , Alexandra Hall , Victoria Higgins , Ashfia Chowdhury , Rebecca Thompson , Mary Kathryn Bohn , Joseph Macri and Khosrow Adeli EMAIL logo



Accurate pediatric reference intervals (RIs) for laboratory tests determined in a healthy pediatric population are essential for correct laboratory test interpretation and clinical decision-making. In pediatrics, RIs require partitioning by age and/or sex; however, the need for partitioning based on ethnicity is unclear. Here, we assessed the influence of ethnicity on biomarker concentrations in the Canadian Laboratory Initiative on Pediatric Reference Intervals (CALIPER) cohort of healthy children and adolescents and compared the results with the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).


A total of 52 biomarkers were measured in a multiethnic population of 846–1179 healthy children (aged 5 to <19 years) upon informed consent. Biomarker concentrations were retrospectively compared between four major ethnic groups (i.e. Black, Caucasian, East Asian, and South Asian, determined by parental ethnicity). Retrospective results were verified prospectively using an additional 500 healthy pediatric samples with equal sample size across ethnicities. Ethnic-specific differences were assessed based on statistical significance and biological and analytical variations. Appropriate age-, sex-, and ethnic-specific RIs were calculated.


Ethnic-specific differences were not observed for 34 biomarkers examined in the retrospective analysis, while 18 demonstrated statistically significant ethnic differences. Among these, seven analytes demonstrated ethnic-specific differences in the prospective analysis: vitamin D, amylase, ferritin, follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), immunoglobulin A (IgA), immunoglobulin G (IgG), and immunoglobulin M (IgM). Analysis of select NHANES data confirmed CALIPER findings.


This is the first comprehensive Canadian pediatric study examining ethnic-specific differences in common biomarkers. While the majority of biomarkers did not require ethnic partitioning, ethnic-specific RIs were established for seven biomarkers showing marked differences. Further studies in other populations are needed to confirm our findings.

Award Identifier / Grant number: 353989

Funding statement: This research was supported by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (funder Id:, Grant Number: 353989).


We thank all study participants and their families, without whom this study would not have been possible.

  1. Author contributions: KA and HT conceptualized the research question and designed the study plan. AH, AC, RT, MKB, and JM were involved in participant recruitment and sample collection. VT and SA contributed to retrospective and prospective data analysis, in addition to HT. All authors contributed to drafting and revising the final manuscript. All the authors have accepted responsibility for the entire content of this submitted manuscript and approved submission.

  2. Employment or leadership: None declared.

  3. Honorarium: None declared.

  4. Competing interests: The funding organization(s) played no role in the study design; in the collection, analysis, and interpretation of data; in the writing of the report; or in the decision to submit the report for publication.


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Supplementary Material

The online version of this article offers supplementary material (

Received: 2019-08-19
Accepted: 2019-11-15
Published Online: 2019-12-24
Published in Print: 2020-03-26

©2020 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston

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