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      The late phase of sepsis is characterized by an increased microbiological burden and death rate

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          Recent models capturing the pathophysiology of sepsis and ex-vivo data from patients are speculating about immunosuppression in the so-called late phase of sepsis. Clinical data regarding survival and microbiological burden are missing. The aim of this study was to determine the clinical significance of the 'late phase' of sepsis with respect to overall survival and occurrence of microbiological findings.


          In a retrospective trial, 16,041 patient charts from a university intensive care unit were screened, and 999 patients with severe sepsis or septic shock were identified. Three phases were established according to the mortality peaks which were separated by two distinct nadirs: phase I (days 1 to 5), phase II (days 6 to 15) and phase III (days 16 to 150). Patients were analyzed for outcome, SOFA scores, procalcitonin levels, antimicrobial treatment, dialysis, mechanical ventilation and results of blood cultures during their hospital stay.


          Out of 999 enrolled patients, 308 died during the course of sepsis presenting a characteristic mortality rate (30.8%) with three distinct mortality peaks (at days 2, 7 and 17). Overall 36.7% of all deaths occurred in the early phase (phase I) and 63.3% during the later phases (phase II + III). In total 2,117 blood cultures were drawn. In phase I, 882 blood cultures were drawn, representing a sampling rate of 88% with a positive rate of 14.9%. In phase II, 461 samples were taken, indicating a sampling rate of 52% and a positive rate of 11.3%. Within phase III, 524 samples were obtained representing a sampling rate of 66% with a positive rate of 15.3%, which was significantly higher compared to the positive rate of phase II and similar to phase I. In particular, the rate of typically opportunistic bacteria increased significantly from 9% in phase I up to 18% in phase III. The same is true for Candida spp. (phase I 13%, phase III 30%).


          The later phase of sepsis is associated with a significant re-increase of positive blood culture results, especially regarding opportunistic bacteria and fungi. These observations warrant further studies focusing on the underlying mechanisms resulting in this outcome burden in the later phase of sepsis.

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          Most cited references 15

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          Cell death.

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            Granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor to reverse sepsis-associated immunosuppression: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled multicenter trial.

            Sustained sepsis-associated immunosuppression is associated with uncontrolled infection, multiple organ dysfunction, and death. In the first controlled biomarker-guided immunostimulatory trial in sepsis, we tested whether granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF) reverses monocyte deactivation, a hallmark of sepsis-associated immunosuppression (primary endpoint), and improves the immunological and clinical course of patients with sepsis. In a prospective, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, multicenter trial, 38 patients (19/group) with severe sepsis or septic shock and sepsis-associated immunosuppression (monocytic HLA-DR [mHLA-DR] <8,000 monoclonal antibodies (mAb) per cell for 2 d) were treated with GM-CSF (4 microg/kg/d) or placebo for 8 days. The patients' clinical and immunological course was followed up for 28 days. Both groups showed comparable baseline mHLA-DR levels (5,609 +/- 3,628 vs. 5,659 +/- 3,332 mAb per cell), which significantly increased within 24 hours in the GM-CSF group. After GM-CSF treatment, mHLA-DR was normalized in 19/19 treated patients, whereas this occurred in 3/19 control subjects only (P < 0.001). GM-CSF also restored ex-vivo Toll-like receptor 2/4-induced proinflammatory monocytic cytokine production. In patients receiving GM-CSF, a shorter time of mechanical ventilation (148 +/- 103 vs. 207 +/- 58 h, P = 0.04), an improved Acute Physiology and Chronic Health Evaluation-II score (P = 0.02), and a shorter length of both intrahospital and intensive care unit stay was observed (59 +/- 33 vs. 69 +/- 46 and 41 +/- 26 vs. 52 +/- 39 d, respectively, both not significant). Side effects related to the intervention were not noted. Biomarker-guided GM-CSF therapy in sepsis is safe and effective for restoring monocytic immunocompetence. Use of GM-CSF may shorten the time of mechanical ventilation and hospital/intensive care unit stay. A multicenter trial powered for the improvement of clinical parameters and mortality as primary endpoints seems indicated. Clinical trial registered with (NCT00252915).
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              Novel strategies for the treatment of sepsis.

              The history of therapeutic interventions in clinical trials for sepsis has been referred to as the "graveyard for pharmaceutical companies." That is now set to change, as research provides hope for new approaches that will be therapeutically effective in humans with sepsis.

                Author and article information

                Crit Care
                Crit Care
                Critical Care
                BioMed Central
                28 July 2011
                : 15
                : 4
                : R183
                [1 ]Clinic for Anesthesiology and Intensive Care, Jena University Hospital, Erlanger Allee 101, 07747 Jena, Germany
                [2 ]Institute of Medical Microbiology, Jena University Hospital, Erlanger Allee 101, 07747 Jena, Germany
                Copyright ©2011 Otto et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

                This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


                Emergency medicine & Trauma


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