Pneumosepsis survival in the setting of obesity leads to persistent steatohepatitis and metabolic dysfunction

Avnee Kumar, Chitra Parthasarathy, Hallie Prescott, Scott Denstaedt, Michael Newstead, , Angela Bustamante, Kanakadurga Singer and Benjamin Singer

Hepatology Communications 2023. 7: e0210.


Background: As critical care practice evolves, the sepsis survivor population continues to expand, often with lingering inflammation in many organs, including the liver. Given the concurrently increasing population of patients with NAFLD, in this study, we aimed to understand the long-term effect of sepsis on pre-existing NAFLD and hyperglycemia. Methods: Male mice were randomized to a high-fat diet or a control diet (CD). After 24 weeks on diet, mice were inoculated with Klebsiella pneumoniae (Kpa). Serial glucose tolerance tests, and insulin and pyruvate challenge tests were performed 1 week before infection and at 2 and 6 weeks after infection. Whole tissue RNA sequencing and histological evaluation of the liver were performed. To test whether persistent inflammation could be reproduced in other abnormal liver environments, mice were also challenged with Kpa after exposure to a methionine-choline–deficient high-fat diet. Finally, a retrospective cohort of 65,139 patients was analyzed to evaluate whether obesity was associated with liver injury after sepsis. Results: After Kpa inoculation, high-fat diet mice had normalized fasting blood glucose without a change in insulin sensitivity but with a notable decrease in pyruvate utilization. Liver examination revealed focal macrophage collections and a unique inflammatory gene signature on RNA analysis. In the clinical cohort, preobesity, and class 1 and class 2 obesity were associated with increased odds of elevated aminotransferase levels 1–2 years after sepsis. Conclusions: The combination of diet-induced obesity and pneumosepsis survival in a murine model resulted in unique changes in gluconeogenesis and liver inflammation, consistent with the progression of benign steatosis to steatohepatitis. In a cohort study, obese patients had an increased risk of elevated aminotransferase levels 1–2 years following sepsis.


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