Sepsis May Bring on Immune Dysfunction

Bloodstream infection sepsis could cause immune system impairment

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) For patients, a diagnosis of sepsis, a potentially deadly bloodstream infection, may be frightening enough. Those individuals may also be at risk of immune system impairment.

Researchers have identified biochemical, cellular and histological findings that suggest sepsis may suppress the immune system.

"Always wash your hands when visiting a hospitalized patient."

Jonathan S. Boomer, Ph.D, a researcher from the Washington University School of Medicine, said that the study has important implications for treatment since some medications could be harmful when given to a patient with an impaired immune system.

When given earlier those drugs still could benefit patients with sepsis.

During the study, researchers took spleen and lung tissue from 40 patients with an average age of 72 who had died in intensive care units with active severe sepsis between 2009 and 2011. The median ICU stay for patients with sepsis was 8 days, and the median duration of sepsis was 4 days.

They also analyzed 29 spleens from brain dead patients who were transplant donors and from patients who required emergency spleen removals. These patients, who had an average age of 53 and had spent an average of 4 or fewer days in ICU, did not have sepsis.

Various testing was performed on the tissue samples in an effort to identify the possible source of immune dysfunction.

The tissue testing revealed that those who had died of sepsis had immunosuppression as compared to the patients without sepsis. This was determined by biochemical, cell and immunohistochemical findings.

The immunohistochemical findings are related to the detection of antigens within cells of the tissue.

Researchers said that a key to the development of better targeted therapies for sepsis will be to accurately determine the immune status of patients during various periods of the disease.

The research will be published in the Dec. 21 edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
December 16, 2011
Last Updated:
April 25, 2012