What you need to know about neutrophils (2023)

Neutrophilsis the most common typeWBCs.Like all white blood cells, they work to fight infectious organisms in your body, such as viruses and bacteria. They are also calledpolymorphonuclears(PMN)leukocytes.

Neutrophils can be assessed with a blood test. High or low levels can help diagnose certain medical conditions.

This article looks at what neutrophils are for, where they come from, and what a high or low neutrophil count means.

What you need to know about neutrophils (1)

What do neutrophils do?

Neutrophils are the first type of white blood cells activated to fight infection. Once at the site of a pathogen (infectious organism) in the body, neutrophils have several functions to help the body eliminate the pathogen.

Actions include:

  • It signals other types of white blood cells to help fight infection
  • Destruction of the organism by release of chemicals
  • It helps increase the temperature, which makes it difficult for the infectious pathogen to survive
  • Phagocytosis, which is the process of ingesting parts of an infectious pathogen
  • Proliferation of neutrophil extracellular traps (NETs), mesh-like structures made of nuclear material that trap pathogens

The degraded infectious material is removed from the body and the neutrophils are also degraded.

Neutrophils and the innate immune system

Neutrophils to godinnate immune system, which is ready to respond to any perceived invaders (antigens). They are non-specific, meaning they react to many antigens, not just one. Neutrophils have no memory and do not make you immune to certain infections like lymphocytes.

Where do neutrophils come from?

Neutrophils and all blood cells grow insideMarvben.Immature neutrophilsthey mature in the bone marrow for about 14 days and then circulate in the blood. In the bone marrow they appear as young neutrophils with a round nucleus. They also develop granules in their cytoplasm.

As they mature, the nucleus changes from a round to a banded shape and they are called banded neutrophils. A fully mature neutrophil has a segmented nucleus and is called a segmented neutrophil.

Both bound and fragmented neutrophils can be seen circulating in the blood. Small numbers of mature neutrophils are also found in certain other tissues and organs throughout the body.

Neutrophils have a lifespan in the bloodstream of about one day.They migrate to tissues where needed and still have a short life span. The body is constantly making new neutrophils to replace older neutrophils.

What is a normal neutrophil count?

Neutrophils are normally measured in acomplete blood count(CBC) and differential. A CBC is a blood test that is often taken for a routine checkup or to investigate the cause of common symptoms, such as fever, fatigue, swelling, vomiting, shortness of breath, and more.

There are standard values ​​for the typical number of neutrophils in a blood sample, the percentage of white blood cells in the sample that are neutrophils, and how many banded or juvenile neutrophils appear.

(Video) The Amazing Neutrophil Function – Dr.Berg

Normal neutrophil count
Per cubic milliliterPercentage of total white blood cells
Segmented neutrophils2,500 to 6,00040 to 60
Neutrophil Trakasti0 to 5000 to 0.5
Juvenile neutrophils0 to 1000 to 0.1

In addition to CBC, neutrophils are sometimes assessed with abone marrow biopsy. This is an invasive test where a bone marrow sample is taken. The sample is sent to a laboratory to look at the number of neutrophils produced in the bone marrow and any abnormalities in them.

A bone marrow biopsy is not a routine test. It is usually done to evaluate possible blood cancer or other conditions that affect the production of blood cells or the bone marrow.

Blood test results for high and low neutrophils

What does it mean when neutrophils are high?

An elevated neutrophil count is usually a sign of a recent or ongoing infection. Normally, in these cases, the neutrophils will be elevated for a short time while the body fights the infection, and then the neutrophils will eventually fall to normal levels.

A higher percentage of banded neutrophils compared to segmented neutrophils in the blood test may be seen in acute infection or acute inflammation because the bone marrow responds by releasing neutrophils earlier in the maturation process.

A high neutrophil count due to resolution of the infection is not a cause for concern. This is a sign that the body's immune system is working effectively to protect the body from infectious organisms.

High neutrophil count and disease

Besides infection, there are other causes of elevated neutrophils. They can be increased as a side effect of certain medications. Certain medical conditions, such as cancer, allergic reactions,autoimmune disorders, trauma and heart attacks, can cause an increase in the number of neutrophils.

In some of these situations, such as during aheart attackor after injury, neutrophils act to help reduce damage and facilitate healing.

Autoimmune diseases can cause an increase in neutrophils or other white blood cells as the body attacks its own tissue. This can contribute to symptoms of autoimmune conditions, such as swelling, fever and pain.However, changes in neutrophil counts in autoimmune diseases are usually not significant enough or consistent enough to be used to diagnose or monitor the disease.

What does it mean when neutrophils are low?

Neutropeniais a low neutrophil count. Medical conditions can affect the body's production of white blood cells or cause them to break down prematurely. Sometimes serious infections can cause neutropenia. Bone marrow disease can affect the production of any type of blood cell, including neutrophils.

Chemotherapy drugs used to treat cancer can inhibit the production of blood cells in the bone marrow and sometimes cause premature destruction of neutrophils and other blood cells, leading to neutropenia.

With a low neutrophil count, the body may not be able to fight infections as well as it should. This can lead to a predisposition to serious and long-term infections from viruses, bacteria, fungi or parasites.

Febrile neutropenia (all temperatures).is a condition that occurs with certain infections and may be a sign of a serious bacterial infection that requires treatment.

Conditions that can cause neutropenia include:

(Video) Neutropenia - Mayo Clinic

  • Medicines, such as chemotherapy
  • Bone marrow damage
  • Cancer, especially cancer of the blood cells
  • Congenital (present at birth) bone marrow disorders
  • Infections
  • Autoimmune disease

Infections, cancer and autoimmune diseases can increase or decrease neutrophils at different stages of the disease.

Symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of cyclic neutropenia


Neutrophils are the most common type of white blood cells in the blood. They are usually the first to arrive where the body fights pathogens, such as viruses, bacteria, fungi or parasites, and have many different, coordinated ways to protect the body from infection.

Neutrophils usually increase during an infection and decrease to normal levels after the infection clears. A low neutrophil count is a common side effect of chemotherapy and can weaken your immune system.

The concentration of neutrophils in the blood can be measured with a simple blood test. In some cases, a bone marrow biopsy may be needed to determine if there is an abnormality with the neutrophils as they develop.

Changes in neutrophil count may be associated with fever, edema, fatigue, and susceptibility to infection.

12 Sources

Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts in our articles. Read ourseditorial processto learn more about how we verify and keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.

  1. Hidalgo A, Chilvers ER, Summers C, Koenderman L.Life cycle of neutrophils.Trends Immunol. 2019; 40 (7): 584-597. doi:10.1016/j.it.2019.04.013

  2. Rosales G.Neutrophil: one cell with multiple roles in inflammation or multiple cell types? Front Physiol. 2018; 9:113. doi:10.3389/fphys.2018.00113

  3. Masucci MT, Minopoli M, Del Vecchio S, Carriero MV.The growing role of neutrophil extracellular traps (NETs) in tumor progression and metastasis.Immuno foranyear 2020; 11:1749. doi:10.3389/fimmu.2020.01749

  4. Brostjan C, Oehler R.The role of neutrophil death in chronic inflammation and cancer.Detection of cell death. 2020; 06:26 doi:10.1038/s41420-020-0255-6

  5. National Cancer Institute.Normal blood values.

  6. Johns Hopkins Medicine.Bone marrow biopsy.

  7. Honda T, Uehara T, Matsumoto G, Arai S, Sugano M.Neutrophil left shift and white blood cell count as indicators of bacterial infection.Clin Chim Acta. 2016; 457:46-53. doi:10.1016/j.cca.2016.03.017

  8. Zon RL, Berliner N.How I'm Treated: Inpatient Consultation for Quantitative Neutrophil Abnormalities in Adults.Blood.2022: blood. 2021014818. doi:10.1182/krv.2021014818

  9. Grune J, Lewis AJM, Yamazoe Μ, et al.Neutrophils promote and macrophages prevent electrical storm after myocardial infarction.Nat Cardiovasc Res.2022;1(7):649-664. doi:10.1038/s44161-022-00094-w

  10. Center for Disease Control and Prevention.Neutropenia and risk of infection.

  11. Morin EM, Corriveau-Bourque C, Foulds JL.Treatment and outcome of febrile neutropenia in presumed immunocompetent patients hospitalized with suspected viral disease.Pediatrician Children's health. 2022;27(7):408-413. doi:10.1093/pch/pxac053

  12. Mithowani S, Cameron L, Crowther MA.Neutropenia.CMJ.2022;194(49):E1689. doi:10.1503/cmaj.220499

(Video) Immune Diagnostic Tests - WBCs, Neutrophils, ESR, CRP: Medical Surgical - Immune | @LevelUpRN

What you need to know about neutrophils (2)

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(Video) Neutrophil and its role in immunity |Neutrophil in antibacterial immunity| Functions of neutrophils?
(Video) What are neutrophils and what do they do? (part 1)


What you need to know about neutrophils? ›

Neutrophils help your immune system fight infections and heal injuries. Neutrophils are the most common type of white blood cell in your body. An absolute neutrophil count identifies whether your body has enough neutrophils or if your count is above or below a healthy range.

What are important points about neutrophils? ›

When microorganisms, such as bacteria or viruses, enter the body, neutrophils are one of the first immune cells to respond. They travel to the site of infection, where they destroy the microorganisms by ingesting them and releasing enzymes that kill them. Neutrophils also boost the response of other immune cells.

What does it mean if your neutrophils are high? ›

High neutrophils means the body is under stress. Infection, inflammation, stress, and vigorous exercise can cause increased neutrophil levels (neutrophilia). In response to these insults, neutrophil reserves in the bone marrow are released. These spikes are generally short-term.

What kind of infection causes high neutrophils? ›

Infections by bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites may all increase the number of neutrophils in the blood. , can cause an increase in the number and activity of neutrophils. Some medications, such as corticosteroids, also lead to an increased number of neutrophils in the blood.

What is the danger if neutrophils are low? ›

Not having enough neutrophils makes it harder for your body to fight germs and prevent infections. In severe cases, even bacteria that a healthy body typically tolerates (like the bacteria in your mouth and intestines) can make you sick.

What are 4 functions of neutrophils? ›

Neutrophils help prevent infections by blocking, disabling, digesting, or warding off invading particles and microorganisms. They're constantly searching for signs of infection, and quickly respond to trap and kill pathogens.

Why is it important to monitor neutrophils? ›

Neutrophils are a type of white blood cell. They help the body fight infection. An absolute neutrophil count may be used to check for infection, inflammation, leukemia, and other conditions. The lower a person's absolute neutrophil count is, the higher the risk is of getting an infection.

Is it better to have high or low neutrophils? ›

The normal range of neutrophils in a healthy adult is between 2,500 and 7,000 neutrophils per microliter of blood. Any number above 7,000 or below 2,500 puts you at risk of a neutrophil condition.

What is the most common cause of high neutrophils? ›

Infection. This is the most common cause of a high neutrophil count. Most bacterial infections cause a high neutrophil count but not all of them do. Viral infections don't generally cause neutrophilia but they may in the early stage of infection.

What cancers are associated with high neutrophils? ›

Neutrophils can also influence the migration potential of cancer cells. In several types of cancer it has been shown that neutrophils promote metastasis. These tumors include skin squamous cell carcinoma [135], melanoma [136], adenocarcinomas [137], HNSCC [83], and breast cancer [138].

What diseases are associated with neutrophils? ›

Neutrophil disorders we care for
  • Autoimmune Neutropenia of Infancy.
  • Chediak-Higashi Syndrome.
  • Chronic Granulomatous Disease (CGD)
  • Cyclic Neutropenia.
  • Drug-Induced Neutropenia.
  • Ethnic Neutropenia.
  • Glycogen Storage Disease Type 1B.
  • Idiopathic Neutropenia.

Do high neutrophils mean inflammation? ›

Neutrophils dominate the early stages of inflammation and set the stage for repair of tissue damage by macrophages. These actions are orchestrated by numerous cytokines and the expression of their receptors, which represent a potential means for inhibiting selective aspects of inflammation.

Can emotional stress cause high neutrophils? ›

Importantly, we found that acute stress led to a significant increase in the number of neutrophils in peripheral blood, while the number of T cells and B cells decreased significantly through flow cytometric analysis.

How do you treat neutrophils? ›

Approaches for treating neutropenia include:
  1. Antibiotics for fever. ...
  2. A treatment called granulocyte colony-stimulating factor (G-CSF). ...
  3. Changing medications, if possible, in cases of drug-induced neutropenia.
  4. Granulocyte (white blood cell) transfusion (very uncommon)
Jun 8, 2022

What foods increase neutrophils? ›

Here are some foods that are typically part of a neutropenic diet:
  • Commercially packaged cheese and cheese products made from pasteurized milk.
  • Canned meat or fish or meat spreads.
  • Well-cooked tofu.
  • Dried fruits.
  • Canned or bottled roasted nuts.
  • Frozen or canned fruits and vegetables.
  • Cooked pasta, rice and other grains.
Aug 9, 2022

What is an alarming WBC count? ›

In general, for adults a count of more than 11,000 white blood cells in a microliter of blood is considered high.

What is a normal range for neutrophils? ›

Normal Results

Neutrophils: 40% to 60% Lymphocytes: 20% to 40% Monocytes: 2% to 8%

What bacteria do neutrophils fight? ›

Neutrophils engulf and kill bacteria when their antimicrobial granules fuse with the phagosome. Here, we describe that, upon activation, neutrophils release granule proteins and chromatin that together form extracellular fibers that bind Gram-positive and -negative bacteria.

What are the stages of neutrophils? ›

The stages of neutrophil granulopoiesis are promyelocytes, myelocytes, metamyelocytes, band cells and segmented neutrophils (29). Several studies have identified a higher proportion of immature neutrophils is indicative of infection, particularly neonatal sepsis (30–32).

Can low neutrophils cause tiredness? ›

Neutropenia symptoms include: feeling sick (nausea) extreme tiredness (fatigue) infections that go on for a long time or keep coming back.

What cancers cause low neutrophils? ›

What are some causes of neutropenia? Chemotherapy and radiation therapy are often the cause of neutropenia because those treatments prevent the production of neutrophils. Patients who have cancers that affect their bone marrow, such as leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma, are also at risk for neutropenia.

Can low neutrophils cause hair loss? ›

Damage to these normal cells causes the side effects of chemotherapy (low blood counts, hair loss, mouth sores, and diarrhea).

Does COVID have high neutrophils? ›

Severe disease in COVID-19 is associated to increased neutrophil-to-lymphocyte ratio and high expression of neutrophil-related cytokines IL-8 and IL-6 in serum, and neutrophilia has been described as a predictor of poor outcome (4–14).

How high are neutrophils in leukemia? ›

platelet count over 100,000, but less than the normal range of 150,000. neutrophil count over 1,000.

Does low neutrophils mean low immunity? ›

It is a condition in which you have a low number of neutrophils (white blood cells). White blood cells help fight infection, so if you have neutropenia, you are more susceptible to infections. The lower your neutrophil count, the greater the risk of infection.

What autoimmune disease causes high neutrophils? ›

Various roles of neutrophils occur in autoimmune‐associated disorders, including rheumatoid arthritis (RA), systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), primary sjögren's syndrome (pSS), multiple sclerosis (MS), and crohn's disease (CD).

Are neutrophils cancerous? ›

In summary, neutrophils recruited to inflammatory sites promote cancer initiation mainly by increasing DNA damage, angiogenesis and immunosuppression. However, the mechanism underlying neutrophil-dependent carcinogenesis is complicated and cannot be reduced to one specific molecule.

Can anxiety cause high neutrophils? ›

About neutrophilia

Increases may be seen after a heart attack (or other infarct) and necrosis. Heavy exercise, smoking, anxiety, and other stressors can elevate the neutrophil count.

Can a tumor cause high neutrophils? ›

Peripheral blood neutrophil counts are increased in patients with cancer. Tumours produce granulocyte colony-stimulating factor (G-CSF) which skews the neutrophil retention/release balance in bone marrow, leading to this increase in blood neutrophils.

Does high neutrophils make you tired? ›

Neutrophilia itself typically doesn't have symptoms. A high white blood cell count may be a sign of underlying conditions that may cause symptoms such as: A temperature of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius) or higher. Feeling weak or tired.

Can dehydration cause high neutrophils? ›

Subjects were divided into two groups according to level of dehydration after practice (mild dehydration and severe dehydration groups) and results were compared. Creatine kinase was found to increase significantly after practice. In addition, neutrophil count also increased significantly after practice in both groups.

Can lack of sleep cause high neutrophils? ›

Highlights. Young adults with irregular sleep patterns have higher total white blood cell count. Sleep irregularity is also associated with neutrophils, lymphocytes, and monocytes. Associations remain significant after adjusting for several key confounders.

What foods to avoid if you have high neutrophils? ›

General Tips
  • Avoid all fresh fruits and vegetables, including all fresh garnishes. ...
  • Avoid raw or rare-cooked meat, fish, and eggs. ...
  • Avoid salad bars, fruit bars, and deli counters. ...
  • Avoid raw nuts. ...
  • Make sure all of the dairy products you eat are pasteurized.
  • Avoid yogurt and yogurt products with live and active cultures.

What should I eat if my neutrophils are high? ›

Even if you're neutropenic, try to eat a variety of foods including: fruit and vegetables. bread, pasta, rice, potatoes and other starches. meat, fish, eggs, beans and other non-dairy proteins.

Can neutrophils go away on its own? ›

Neutropenia can be caused by some viral infections or certain medications. The neutropenia is most often temporary in these cases. Chronic neutropenia is defined as lasting more than 2 months. It may eventually go away, or remain as a life-long condition.

What vitamins help neutrophils? ›

Vitamin C (ascorbate) is important for neutrophil function and immune health. Studies showing improved immune function have primarily used cells from scorbutic animals or from individuals with infectious conditions or immune cell disorders.

Does vitamin B12 help neutropenia? ›

Conclusions: Investigation and treatment of vitamin B12 deficiency in patients with leukopenia and neutropenia may shorten the duration of cytopenia and prevent the development of secondary complications.

Can exercise increase neutrophils? ›

Exercise causes a biphasic increase in the number of neutrophils in the blood, arising from increases in catecholamine and cortisol concentrations.

What level of WBC indicates leukemia? ›

At the time of diagnosis, patients can have very, very high white blood cell counts. Typically a healthy person has a white blood cell count of about 4,000-11,000. Patients with acute or even chronic leukemia may come in with a white blood cell count up into the 100,000-400,000 range.

Can anxiety raise white blood cell count? ›

Most of the time, leukocytosis is a normal immune response caused by infection or inflammation. Sometimes, it's associated with stress, anxiety or pregnancy. In some cases, however, a high white blood cell count could mean something more serious. That's why it's important to talk to your healthcare provider.

What cancers cause low WBC? ›

In leukemia, your body makes abnormal blood cells that multiply and divide. The abnormal cells eventually outnumber healthy cells, including healthy white blood cells. That leaves your body with lower-than-normal levels of white blood cells or leukopenia.

What are the 3 functions of neutrophils? ›

Three main antimicrobial functions are recognized for neutrophils: phagocytosis, degranulation, and the release of nuclear material in the form of neutrophil extracellular traps (NETs) (Figure 1). These functions were considered, until recently, the only purpose of neutrophils.

What is the main target of neutrophils? ›

Neutrophils are the primary mediators of the rapid innate host defense against most bacterial and fungal pathogens that occurs before the complex humoral and lymphocyte cellular processes of acquired immunity can be brought to bear on an infection.

What makes neutrophils unique? ›

Recent studies demonstrate that neutrophils themselves secrete an array of pro-inflammatory and immunomodulatory cytokines and chemokines capable of enhancing the recruitment and effector functions of other cells.

What important role do neutrophils play quizlet? ›

Which is the role of neutrophils? Neutrophils are active in phagocytosis and the inflammatory process. Neutrophils are active in phagocytosis and the inflammatory process and thus play an important role for the immune system.

What type of infection do neutrophils fight? ›

Neutrophils have a well-established role during fungal and extracellular bacterial infections where they promote bacterial clearance through phagocytosis, production of reactive oxygen and nitrogen species (ROS/RNS), neutrophil extracellular trap (NET) formation, and production of pro-inflammatory cytokines (6, 7).

What neutrophil count is risk? ›

An absolute neutrophil count identifies how many neutrophils are in a sample of your blood. The normal range of neutrophils in a healthy adult is between 2,500 and 7,000 neutrophils per microliter of blood. Any number above 7,000 or below 2,500 puts you at risk of a neutrophil condition.

What triggers neutrophils? ›

In response to numerous inflammatory stimuli, including combinations of inflammatory cytokines, pathogens, immune complexes, and extracellular membrane (ECM) components, neutrophils can be activated to undergo either NETosis or apoptosis.

What stimulates neutrophils? ›

Signalling molecules. We propose that chemokines stimulate the egress of neutrophils from the bone marrow by effectively creating a chemotactic gradient across the sinusoidal endothelium and thereby stimulating neutrophil chemotaxis and transmigration.

What diseases affect neutrophils? ›

Neutrophil disorders we care for
  • Autoimmune Neutropenia of Infancy.
  • Chediak-Higashi Syndrome.
  • Chronic Granulomatous Disease (CGD)
  • Cyclic Neutropenia.
  • Drug-Induced Neutropenia.
  • Ethnic Neutropenia.
  • Glycogen Storage Disease Type 1B.
  • Idiopathic Neutropenia.

What do neutrophils do in inflammation? ›

Neutrophils dominate the early stages of inflammation and set the stage for repair of tissue damage by macrophages. These actions are orchestrated by numerous cytokines and the expression of their receptors, which represent a potential means for inhibiting selective aspects of inflammation.

How do neutrophil cells help defend the body? ›

Neutrophils migrate to sites of inflammation and infection where they recognize and phagocytose invading microorganisms, in order to kill them via different cytotoxic mechanisms.

What do neutrophils do in respiratory system? ›

Neutrophils serve as an important component of immune defense barrier linking innate and adaptive immunity. They participate in the clearance of exogenous pathogens and endogenous cell debris and play an essential role in the pathogenesis of many respiratory diseases.


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