Bacterial translocation increases phagocytic activity of polymorphonuclear leucocytes in portal hypertension: priming independent of liver cirrhosis


Reiner Wiest, MD, Department of Internal Medicine I, University Hospital, 93042 Regensburg, Germany
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Aim: Bacterial translocation (BT) to mesenteric lymph nodes (MLN) in cirrhosis has been linked to impaired host defence. Phagocytosis by polymorphonuclear leucocytes (PMNLs) is the primary event in the killing of bacteria but has not been investigated in relation to the presence of BT.

Methods: Mesenteric lymph nodes were harvested sterile and assessed for BT by culture techniques. Study groups included ascitic cirrhotic rats (LC), healthy controls (Con) as well as portal-vein-ligated (PVL) rats 2 days (acute PVL with and without norfloxacin) or 3 weeks after surgery (chronic PVL). PMNLs were isolated from systemic blood and the capacity to phagocytose opsonized Escherichia coli was evaluated by FACS analysis.

Results: No BT was observed in Con and chronic PVL animals but 11/20 LC (55%) and six out of six acute PVL (100%) presented with BT. In the presence of BT, PMNL from PVL as well as LC rats showed significantly increased phagocytic activity as compared with controls. In contrast, PMNL from animals without BT, whether PVL or LC, exhibited phagocytic activity similar to those from control rats. The number of PMNLs involved in the phagocytic process was significantly increased only in portal-hypertensive rats with but not without BT as compared with controls. Norfloxacin did prevent BT in acute PVL animals, thereby correcting the increase in phagocytic capacity in PMNL.

Conclusions: Cirrhosis per se is not associated with alterations of the phagocytic capacity of PMNL. The occurrence of BT, however, increases the phagocytic capacity of PMNL, being observed likewise in prehepatic portal hypertension, indicating an in vivo‘priming’ of PMNL by BT independent of cirrhosis.