Impaired Lymphocyte Responses in Pediatric Sepsis Vary by Pathogen Type and are Associated with Features of Immunometabolic Dysregulation.

Publication Year


Journal Article

BACKGROUND: Sepsis is the leading cause of death in hospitalized children worldwide. Despite its hypothesized immune-mediated mechanism, targeted immunotherapy for sepsis is not available for clinical use.

OBJECTIVE: To determine the association between longitudinal cytometric, proteomic, bioenergetic, and metabolomic markers of immunometabolic dysregulation and pathogen type in pediatric sepsis.

METHODS: Serial peripheral blood mononuclear cell (PBMC) samples were obtained from 14 sepsis patients (34 total samples) and 7 control patients for this observational study. Flow cytometry was used to define immunophenotype, including T cell subset frequency and activation state, and assess intracellular cytokine production. Global immune dysfunction was assessed by tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) production capacity and monocyte human leukocyte antigen DR (HLA-DR) expression. Mitochondrial function was assessed by bulk respirometry. Plasma cytokine levels were determined via Luminex assay. Metabolites were measured by liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry. Results were compared by timepoint and pathogen type.

RESULTS: Sepsis patients were older (15.9 years vs. 10.4 years, P = 0.02) and had higher illness severity by PRISM-III (12.0 vs. 2.0, P < 0.001) compared to controls; demographics were otherwise similar, though control patients were predominately male. Compared to controls, sepsis patients at timepoint 1 demonstrated lower monocyte HLA-DR expression (75% vs. 92%, P = 0.02), loss of peripheral of non-naïve CD4+ T cells (62.4% vs. 77.6%, P = 0.04), and reduced PBMC mitochondrial spare residual capacity (SRC; 4.0 pmol/s/106 cells vs. 8.4 pmol/s/106 cells, P = 0.01). At sepsis onset, immunoparalysis (defined as TNF-α production capacity < 200 pg/mL) was present in 39% of sepsis patients and not identified among controls. Metabolomic findings in sepsis patients were most pronounced at sepsis onset and included elevated uridine and 2-dehydrogluconate and depleted citrulline. Loss of peripheral non-naïve CD4+ T cells was associated with immune dysfunction and reduced cytokine production despite increased T cell activation. CD4+ T cell differentiation and corresponding pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines varied by pathogen.

CONCLUSION: Pediatric sepsis patients exhibit a complex, dynamic physiologic state characterized by impaired T cell function and immunometabolic dysregulation which varies by pathogen type.

Date Published
2022 Jun 01
ISSN Number
Alternate Journal