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Am J Physiol Lung Cell Mol Physiol. 2012 Sep;303(5):L355-63. doi: 10.1152/ajplung.00069.2012. Epub 2012 Jun 15.

Inflection points in sepsis biology: from local defense to systemic organ injury.

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  • 1Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine, Univ. of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, CA 94143-0111, USA.


Sepsis and septic shock lead to considerable morbidity and mortality in developed and developing countries. Despite advances in understanding the innate immune events that lead to septic shock, molecular therapies based on these advances have failed to improve sepsis mortality. The clinical failure of laboratory-derived therapies may be, in part, due to the pleiotropic consequences of the acute inflammatory response, which is the focus of this review. A brisk response to infecting organism is essential for pathogen containment and eradication. However, systemic spread of inflammation beyond a single focus leads to organ injury and higher mortality. The primary goal of this article is to discuss recent animal- and human-based scientific advances in understanding the host response to infection and to highlight how these defense mechanisms can be locally beneficial but systemically detrimental. There are other factors that determine the severity of sepsis that are beyond the scope of this review, including the virulence of the pathogen and regulation by Toll-like receptors. Specifically, this review focuses on how the effector mechanisms of platelets, mast cells, neutrophil extracellular traps (NETs), and the endothelium participate in combating local infections yet can induce organ injury during systemic infection.

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