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PHILADELPHIA - Sepsis occurs when the body’s response to widespread bacterial infection or toxins in the blood damages tissues and organs. The right kind of gut bacteria may help in the fight against sepsis, found researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, reporting in the journal Cell Host & Microbe.

Previous research has shown that antibodies in the blood quickly respond to blood-borne bacteria in sepsis and that gut microbes normally trigger IgA antibody responses that block bacterial invasion in the gut.

David Allman, PhD, a professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, and a postdoctoral fellow in his lab, Joel Wilmore, PhD, found that exposing mice to a unique, but natural, population of microbes that included several members of the Proteobacteria family led to increases in IgA levels in the blood. In addition, shifting the mouse gut to a Proteobacteria-rich microbiota led to IgA-mediated resistance to a widespread bacterial invasion that led to sepsis in control mice.

Based on these findings, the researchers plan to probe which specific IgA confers protection against sepsis and explore ways to use this knowledge to treat sepsis in humans. In the meantime, they urge caution against over-interpreting the new findings.

For more, read a summary by Cell Press.

Penn Medicine is one of the world’s leading academic medical centers, dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, and excellence in patient care. Penn Medicine consists of the Raymond and Ruth Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania (founded in 1765 as the nation’s first medical school) and the University of Pennsylvania Health System, which together form a $9.9 billion enterprise.

The Perelman School of Medicine has been ranked among the top medical schools in the United States for more than 20 years, according to U.S. News & World Report's survey of research-oriented medical schools. The School is consistently among the nation's top recipients of funding from the National Institutes of Health, with $546 million awarded in the 2021 fiscal year.

The University of Pennsylvania Health System’s patient care facilities include: the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and Penn Presbyterian Medical Center—which are recognized as one of the nation’s top “Honor Roll” hospitals by U.S. News & World Report—Chester County Hospital; Lancaster General Health; Penn Medicine Princeton Health; and Pennsylvania Hospital, the nation’s first hospital, founded in 1751. Additional facilities and enterprises include Good Shepherd Penn Partners, Penn Medicine at Home, Lancaster Behavioral Health Hospital, and Princeton House Behavioral Health, among others.

Penn Medicine is powered by a talented and dedicated workforce of more than 47,000 people. The organization also has alliances with top community health systems across both Southeastern Pennsylvania and Southern New Jersey, creating more options for patients no matter where they live.

Penn Medicine is committed to improving lives and health through a variety of community-based programs and activities. In fiscal year 2021, Penn Medicine provided more than $619 million to benefit our community.

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