By: 1 March 2013

Variations in what is called the NFκB gene could play an important role in helping to determine the survival rate of patients who acquire sepsis, the leading cause of death in hospitals.

“Wide variability exists regarding the outcome of patients with severe sepsis, and some of the variability regarding the risk of dying could be caused by genetic variations,” said lead author of the study, published in Anesthesiology, Michael Adamzik, M.D., Associate Professor, Department of Anaesthesiology and Intensive Care Medicine, University Duisberg-Essen, Essen, Germany. “Our study unravels the molecular mechanism by which a common genetic variation in the regulation region of the NFκB gene may amplify and perpetuate inflammation and infection due to sepsis.”

Using blood from human subjects, Dr Adamzik and his research team found that patients with a specific genetic variation (58 percent of the study group) showed, after infection, a two-fold increase of a subunit protein called NFκB-1 and more inflammation compared to patients with other genotypes.

The NFκB genetic pathway is believed to be responsible for amplifying inflammation that takes place in sepsis, and specifically, the protein NFκB-1 could affect the key mechanism of sepsis and possibly influence patient survival rates.

“This genetic variation turned out to represent both an important and independent predictor of mortality in our patients,” said Simon Schäfer, M.D., Research Assistant, Department of Anesthesiology and Intensive Care Medicine, University Duisberg-Essen.

“Patients with one genetic variant were associated with an almost two-fold greater risk for death during sepsis. Our study showed for the first time that this genetic variation markedly increases inflammation and influences the risk of dying from sepsis.” Dr Adamzik stated that future studies should work to unravel whether anti-inflammatory sepsis treatment should be adjusted in patients according to genotype.

For more information, visit the Anesthesiology website at