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J Infect Dis. 2018 Jun 5;218(1):44-52. doi: 10.1093/infdis/jiy110.

Pivotal Role of Preexisting Pathogen-Specific Antibodies in the Development of Necrotizing Soft-Tissue Infections.

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Microbial Interactions and Processes, Helmholtz Center for Infection Research, Braunschweig, Germany.
Department of Medicine, Haukeland University Hospital, Bergen, Norway.
Hyperbaric Unit, Department of Anesthesia, Center for Head and Orthopedics, Rigshospitalet, Copenhagen.
Section of Anesthesiology and Intensive Care, Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, Stockholm.
Department of Anesthesia and Intensive Care, Sahlgrenska University Hospital/Ostra, Gothenburg, Sweden.



Necrotizing soft-tissue infections (NSTI) are the most severe form of bacterial-induced tissue pathology. Their unpredictable onset and rapid development into life-threatening conditions considerably complicate patient treatment. Understanding the risk factors for NSTI in individual patients is necessary for selecting the appropriate therapeutic option.


We investigated the role of pathogen-specific antibodies in the manifestation of NSTI by performing a comparative serologic approach, using plasma samples and bacterial isolates from patients with clinical NSTIs or nonnecrotizing STIs caused by Streptococcus pyogenes. We also evaluated the potential beneficial effect of intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) treatment.


We identified a hitherto overlooked state of serologic susceptibility in patients with NSTIs during the earliest stages of the infection that is potentially linked to disease progression. Thus, all patients with NSTIs included in this study exhibited a deficiency in specific antibodies directed against the causative S. pyogenes strains and the majority of their exotoxins during the initial stage of the infection. We also showed that the clinical use of IVIG during the course of infection compensates the observed antibody deficiency but is unable to halt the disease progression, once tissue necrosis has developed.


These observations emphasize the requirement of preexisting pathogen-specific antibodies to prevent the irreversible progression of tissue infections into severely spreading NSTIs and urge further investigations on the beneficial effect of IVIG-based early phase intervention strategies to prevent the severe effects of this devastating bacterial infection.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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