Background Sepsis is often treated with penicillin-binding protein 3 (PBP-3) acting β-lactam antibiotics, such as piperacillin-tazobactam, cefotaxime and meropenem. They cause considerable bacterial structural changes and have in vitro been associated with an increased inflammatory response. In a clinically relevant large animal sepsis model our primary aim was to investigate whether bacteria killed by a PBP-3 active antibiotic has a greater effect on the early inflammatory response and organ dysfunction compared with corresponding amounts of live or heat-killed bacteria. A secondary aim was to determine whether the addition of an aminoglycoside could mitigate the cefuroxime-induced response.
Method Killed or live Escherichia coli were administrated as a 3-hour (h) infusion to 16 healthy pigs in a prospective, placebo-controlled interventional experimental study. Cefuroxime was chosen as the PBP-3 active antibiotic and tobramycin represented the aminoglycosides. The animals were randomized to receive I) bacteria killed by cefuroxime, II) live bacteria, III) bacteria killed by heat or IV) bacteria killed by the combination of cefuroxime and tobramycin. Plasma endotoxin, tumor necrosis factor alpha, interleukin-6, interleukin-10, leukocytes and organ function were recorded at the start of the experiment and then hourly for 6 h.
Results Differences in dynamics of concentration over time between the four treatment groups were found for the three cytokines (p<0.001). Animals receiving cefuroxime-killed bacteria demonstrated higher responses than those receiving live or heat-killed bacteria (p<0.01). The addition of tobramycin reduced the cefuroxime-induced responses (p<0.001). The cytokine responses were associated with leucocyte activation that was further associated with pulmonary dysfunction and increases in lactate (p<0.01).
Conclusions In comparison with live or heat-killed bacteria, bacteria killed by a PBP-3 active antibiotic induced an increased inflammatory response associated with deteriorated organ and cellular function. The addition of an aminoglycoside to the PBP-3 active antibiotic reduced that response.