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Med Hypotheses. 2007;69(5):1032-9. Epub 2007 Apr 27.

Transient bacteraemia: a possible cause of sudden life threatening events.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, Royal Lancaster Infirmary, Lancaster LA1 4RP, United Kingdom.


The concept proposed is that transient bacteraemia occurring in otherwise healthy individuals can cause acute life threatening events due to bacterial toxaemia even though the bacteraemia is rapidly cleared (<20 min). This is most likely to occur in infancy at around two to three months of age when anti-toxin IgG reaches its nadir. Sudden unexpected death in infancy, acute life threatening events, haemorrhagic shock and encephalopathy, and the triad of retinal haemorrhage, encephalopathy and bilateral thin film subdural haematomata are conditions which could be caused by this mechanism. Investigations need to be directed to measuring bacterial toxins in blood, CSF and urine; anti-toxin IgG in blood; and bacterial specific nucleic acid sequences in blood, CSF and urine using polymerase chain reaction in order to confirm recent bacteraemia. Furthermore the upper respiratory tract bacterial flora should be mapped in cases and appropriately matched live healthy community controls. Sudden onset, profound life threatening physiological dysfunction occurring in later life could also be caused by a similar mechanism and should be investigated in a similar way; candidate conditions include epilepsy, migraine, stroke and cardiac arrhythmias.

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