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Dig Dis Sci. 1993 Aug;38(8):1530-6.

Alterations in rat intestinal transit by morphine promote bacterial translocation.

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  • 1Department of Surgery, University of Texas Medical School, Houston 77030.


Translocation of enteric microorganisms from the intestinal tract to extraintestinal sites has been proposed as an early step in the development of gram-negative sepsis. This study examined the role of altered bowel transit in influencing intestinal bacteriostasis and bacterial translocation using morphine as a pharmacologic inhibitor of such transit. In the first experiment, either normal saline (N = 8) or morphine sulfate (20 mg/kg; N = 8) was injected subcutaneously. Two hours later, morphine (7.5 mg/kg) was infused subcutaneously for an additional 22 hr; control animals received saline alone. After completion of this regimen, a volume of 0.2 ml of 2.5 mM FITC dextrans (10,000 daltons) were injected intraduodenally in each group. The bowel was removed 25 min later, divided into 5-cm segments, and the content of dextrans measured. Small bowel propulsion was expressed as the geometric center of the distribution of dextrans throughout the intestine (in percentage length of small bowel). Gut propulsion was significantly reduced after morphine treatment as compared to controls (32.8 +/- 8.2% vs. 55.8 +/- 4.0%; P < 0.01). In 16 additional rats, saline or morphine was again administered as described. After 24 hr, samples were obtained from the mesenteric lymph node (MLN) complex, blood, spleen, liver, duodenum, jejunum, ileum, and cecum for standard bacteriology. The bacterial counts increased significantly in each intestinal segment following morphine treatment. Microorganisms translocated to the MLN complex in 5, and to distant sites in four of eight morphine-treated animals, respectively.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

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