Cellular Mechanisms in Sepsis

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Mortality remains very high among septic patients despite the advanced treatments rendered in intensive care units. The development of septic shock is multifactorial. Tissue damage and organ dysfunction may be caused not only by the microorganisms but also by the inflammatory mediators released in response to the infection. Cytokines (tumor necrosis factor, interleukin-1, interleukin-6, interleukin-8, high-mobility group box-1 protein, macrophage migratory inhibitory factor) and noncytokines (nitric oxide, platelet-activating factor, complements, and eicosonoids) may inflict tissue injury and contribute to multiple organ dysfunction and cell death (or apoptosis). Gram-negative bacteria are the most common organisms identified in septic patients. The pathological effects of gram-negative bacteria are conveyed through lipopolysaccharide derived from the bacterial cell membrane. Lipopolysaccharide activates the nuclear factor κ B, which triggers the release of inflammatory mediators. Protein components from gram-positive bacteria, fungi, or viruses may evoke the activation of nuclear factor κ B in a similar fashion as lipopolysaccharide. Endogenous anti-inflammatory mediators are released in response to the infection and act to control the overwhelming systemic inflammatory response. The fragile balance between negative and positive feedback on the inflammatory mediators is the key factor that modulates the cellular damage and influences the clinical outcome.

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