Prednisone may be immunosuppressive and dehydroepiandrosterone may stimulate the immune response, but their effect on gut-origin sepsis caused by bacterial translocation has not been studied. Balb/c mice were treated orally with prednisone (1 or 10 mg/kg/day) or saline for 4 days before receiving gavage with 1010 14C-labeled Escherichia coli and a 20% thermal injury. Mice were transfused with allogeneic blood and given dehydroepiandrosterone (5 or 25 mg/kg/day) or vehicle subcutaneously for 4 days before bacterial garage and thermal injury. Some groups in each experiment were observed 10 days for mortality and others were sacrificed 4 hr postburn to measure translocation and survival of translocated bacteria. Survival in prednisone treated animals was 25% (10 mg/kg/day) and 75% (1 mg/kg/day) versus 80% for controls. Following dehydroepiandrosterone administration, survival was 72% (25 mg/kg/day/group) and 30% (5 mg/kg/day/group) versus 16% for controls. High dose prednisone increased bacterial translocation to the intestinal wall and mesenteric lymph nodes and greatly impaired killing of translocated E. coli. In contrast, dehydroepiandrosterone (25 mg/kg) did not affect translocation but significantly improved bacterial killing. Prednisone and dehydroepiandrosterone exert opposite effects during gut-derived sepsis.
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