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Infect Immun. 2012 Dec;80(12):4409-16. doi: 10.1128/IAI.00787-12. Epub 2012 Oct 1.

Insulin treatment directly restores neutrophil phagocytosis and bactericidal activity in diabetic mice and thereby improves surgical site Staphylococcus aureus infection.

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Department of General Medicine, National Defense Medical College, 3-2 Namiki, Tokorozawa, Saitama, Japan.


Bacterial infections, including surgical site infections (SSI), are a common and serious complication of diabetes. Staphylococcus aureus, which is eliminated mainly by neutrophils, is a major cause of SSI in diabetic patients. However, the precise mechanisms by which diabetes predisposes to staphylococcal infection are not fully elucidated. The effect of insulin on this infection is also not well understood. We therefore investigated the effect of insulin treatment on SSI and neutrophil function in diabetic mice. S. aureus was inoculated into the abdominal muscle in diabetic db/db and high-fat-diet (HFD)-fed mice with or without insulin treatment. Although the diabetic db/db mice developed SSI, insulin treatment ameliorated the infection. db/db mice had neutrophil dysfunction, such as decreased phagocytosis, superoxide production, and killing activity of S. aureus; however, insulin treatment restored these functions. Ex vivo treatment (coincubation) of neutrophils with insulin and euglycemic control by phlorizin suggest that insulin may directly activate neutrophil phagocytic and bactericidal activity independently of its euglycemic effect. However, insulin may indirectly restore superoxide production by neutrophils through its euglycemic effect. HFD-fed mice with mild hyperglycemia also developed more severe SSI by S. aureus than control mice and had impaired neutrophil phagocytic and bactericidal activity, which was improved by insulin treatment. Unlike db/db mice, in HFD mice, superoxide production was increased in neutrophils and subsequently suppressed by insulin treatment. Glycemic control by insulin also normalized the neutrophil superoxide-producing capability in HFD mice. Thus, insulin may restore neutrophil phagocytosis and bactericidal activity, thereby ameliorating SSI.

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