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Clin Microbiol Rev. 1993 Jan;6(1):57-68.

Gram-negative sepsis: a dilemma of modern medicine.

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Department of Internal Medicine, Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center, Chicago, Illinois 60612.


Gram-negative sepsis is an increasingly common problem, with up to 300,000 cases occurring each year in the United States alone. Despite the ongoing development of new antibiotics, mortality from gram-negative sepsis remains unacceptably high. To stimulate earlier therapeutic intervention by physicians, a new set of broad definitions has been proposed to define the systemic inflammatory response characteristic of sepsis. In this review, the signs and symptoms of this progressive, injurious process are reviewed and its management is discussed, as are the mechanisms by which bacterial endotoxin triggers the biochemical events that lead to such serious complications as shock, adult respiratory distress syndrome, and disseminated intravascular coagulation. These events often occur even when appropriate antimicrobial therapy has been instituted. An increased understanding of the structure of endotoxin and its role in the development of sepsis, together with advances in hybridoma technology, has led to the development of monoclonal antibodies that bind to endotoxin and significantly attenuate its adverse effects. These agents promise to substantially reduce the morbidity and mortality associated with gram-negative sepsis.

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