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FASEB J. 1991 Mar 1;5(3):338-43.

A specific receptor antagonist for interleukin 1 prevents Escherichia coli-induced shock in rabbits.

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Department of Medicine, Tufts University, Boston, Massachusetts.


Despite antibiotic therapy, the septic shock syndrome continues to have a high mortality. Tumor necrosis factor (TNF) and interleukin 1 (IL 1), two polypeptide cytokines produced during sepsis, are thought to mediate the hypotension and tissue damage of shock. In the present studies, rabbits were infused with Escherichia coli organisms to produce shock. The IL 1 receptor antagonist (IL 1ra), which competes with IL 1 for occupancy of the IL 1 cell-surface receptors without agonist properties, was given 15 min before the bacterial infusion and during the subsequent 4 h. In saline-treated controls, hypotension was sustained for 4 h and death occurred for two of five rabbits; in rabbits treated with the IL 1ra, however, blood pressure was only transiently decreased, returned to pre-E. coli levels, and no deaths occurred. The associated leukopenia was also reduced by treatment with the antagonist (P less than 0.05). Histological examination of lung tissues showed reduced infiltrating neutrophils in the IL 1ra treatment group. Despite the attenuated responses in animals treated with the IL 1ra, circulating TNF and IL 1 levels were nearly identical in both groups. We conclude that specific blockade of IL 1 at the receptor level demonstrates an essential role for this cytokine in the pathogenesis of septic shock.

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