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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, excellence in patient care, and community service. The organization consists of the University of Pennsylvania Health System and Penn’s Raymond and Ruth Perelman School of Medicine, founded in 1765 as the nation’s first medical school.

The Perelman School of Medicine is consistently among the nation's top recipients of funding from the National Institutes of Health, with $550 million awarded in the 2022 fiscal year. Home to a proud history of “firsts” in medicine, Penn Medicine teams have pioneered discoveries and innovations that have shaped modern medicine, including recent breakthroughs such as CAR T cell therapy for cancer and the mRNA technology used in COVID-19 vaccines.

The University of Pennsylvania Health System’s patient care facilities stretch from the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania to the New Jersey shore. These include the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Penn Presbyterian Medical Center, 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 an $11.1 billion enterprise powered by more than 49,000 talented faculty and staff.

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