Is the Limulus Amebocyte Lysate the Sole Predictor of Septic Episodes in Major Thermal Injuries?

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Septic episodes in thermal injuries are usually hallmarked by a series of physiologic parameters that include tachypnea, prolonged paralytic ileus, hyperthermia or hypothermia, altered mental status, thrombocytopenia, leukocytosis or unexplained leukopenia, acidosis, and hyperglycemia. Recent studies with polycystic kidney disease have clearly indicated that the limulus amebocyte lysate (LAL) assays were predictive of fungal infections in this patient population. Because both bacteria and fungi produce lipopolysaccharide that can be identified with die LAL assay, we randomly assayed sequential sera of 45 patients with major thermal injuries for positivity in the LAL assay, with use of the QCL-1000 kit (BioWhittaker, Walkersville, Md). The average burn size of this patient population was 63.43% total body surface area. The average age of the patient was 6.2 years. The sex distribution included 30 males and 15 females. The infectious agents included gram-positive cocci and gram-negative rods, and 14 patients had concomitant fungal infections. Eighty-five percent of the patients tested were positive for endotoxin, with levels ranging from < 0.1 EU/mL to > 1.0 EU/mL. The predominant organism isolated before or on the date the serum was drawn was Pseudomonas aeruginosa (51%), followed by Klebsiella pneumoniae (15%). The remaining 34% were a variety of Enterobacteriaceae. Of the 14 patients who yielded a fungus, 3 had negative LAL assays. Two patients with an elevated LAL grew only Staphylococcus epidermidis in the bloodstream and the wounds. These data clearly indicate that the LAL assay cannot be relied on as the sole predictor of septic episodes; however, it can be an adjunctive test to confirm sepsis when the other parameters have been considered. (J Burn Care Rehabil 1998;19:512–15)

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