Liver function tests might aid early diagnosis of Sepsis

· TGI - Health, TGI - Pathogens

Sepsis is a life-threatening condition. Sepsis is caused by an inappropriate immune response to an infection and is a major global cause of death. A popular term for sepsis is blood poisoning. Severe sepsis is the systemic inflammatory response (SIRS), infection and the presence of organ dysfunction.

Normally the immune system efficiently destroys the invaders as the bacteria or other microbes enter the human body. In sepsis the immune system (IS) goes into overdrive, and the chemicals it (IS) releases into the blood to combat the infection trigger widespread inflammation (swelling). This leads to the formation of small blood clots and leaky blood vessels that block the flow of blood to vital organs such as the kidneys and liver. In the most severe cases, multiple organs fail and the patient dies. People with weakened immune systems, the very young, and the elderly, are most vulnerable to sepsis.

Symptoms of sepsis include:

– Fever


– Rapid breathing

– A fast heart rate, and

– Confusion.


In its early stages, sepsis can be treated with antibiotics alone, but people with severe sepsis need to be admitted to an intensive care unit where the vital organs can be supported while the infection is treated.

30-40% of people who develop severe sepsis die. If sepsis could be diagnosed in its early stages, it might be possible to save more people. Unfortunately, the symptoms of sepsis mimic those of other conditions, and, because sepsis tends to develop very quickly, it is often not diagnosed until it is too late to save the patient’s life.

English: A person with jaundice from hepatic f...

English: A person with jaundice from hepatic failure. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The development of liver (hepatic) dysfunction and jaundice are both regarded so far as late features of sepsis (jaundice is yellowing of the skin and eyes caused by a build-up of bilirubin in the blood). However, the researchers hypothesized that changes in liver function occur early in sepsis and could, therefore, be used to improve the diagnosis and management of sepsis.

Indeed, the researchers have now found that liver dysfunction is an early event in animal models of sepsis and more over that Phosphatidylinositol-3-kinase (PI3K) signalling plays a crucial role in the development of liver dysfunction. They show that all aspects of liver biotransformation are affected during sepsis and suggest that outcomes are related to the severity of these changes. The study also supports the hypothesis that changes in liver function occur early in sepsis, although these data need confirming and extending.

Taken together, these findings suggest that liver function tests might aid early diagnosis of sepsis and might also provide information about likely outcomes. Finally, these findings suggest that inhibition of PI3Kγ may alleviate sepsis-associated cholestasis.


1. Liver Dysfunction and Phosphatidylinositol-3-Kinase Signalling in Early Sepsis: Experimental Studies in Rodent Models of Peritonitis

2. New Translational Research Provides Insights into Liver Dysfunction in Sepsis

Other articles of interest from TGI:

The coagulation system protects our bodies from excessive loss of blood from a leaky or damaged vessel, whereas the immune system protects us from invading pathogens such as viruses. Unexpected links between these two systems suggest their coevolution. Doronin et al. show that an essential protein for the clotting process binds to a virus that has entered […]

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