Relation of a TNF gene polymorphism to severe sepsis in trauma patients

Ann Surg. 1999 Aug;230(2):207-14. doi: 10.1097/00000658-199908000-00011.


Objective: To investigate the relation of the biallelic Nco1 restriction fragment length polymorphism in the first intron of the tumor necrosis factor (TNF) beta gene with the development of severe sepsis in multiply injured patients.

Summary background data: The biallelic Nco1 polymorphism of the TNFbeta gene has been described to be associated with autoimmune diseases and with the mortality rate in severe sepsis. Therefore, the Nco1 polymorphism may be associated with the clinical finding that despite comparable risk factors, posttraumatic sepsis develops in some patients but not others.

Methods: The study group consisted of 110 patients with severe blunt trauma (Injury Severity Score > or = 17). Typing of each patient for the biallelic Nco1 polymorphism was performed by analyzing restriction fragments of an Nco1-digested DNA fragment obtained using polymerase chain reaction. Genotypes were then related to the occurrence of severe posttraumatic sepsis and TNFalpha serum concentrations.

Results: Fifty-seven patients showed an uncomplicated posttraumatic recovery, and severe sepsis developed in 53 patients. The overall allele frequency (TNFB1 0.29, TNFB2 0.71) and genotype distribution (TNFB1 homozygous 7.3%, TNFB1/TNFB2 42.7%, TNFB2 homozygous 50%) were in agreement with the distribution in healthy volunteers. Genotype distribution in patients with an uncomplicated clinical course was significantly different from that in patients with severe posttraumatic sepsis. Development of severe posttraumatic sepsis was significantly increased in patients homozygous for the allele TNFB2. In patients with severe posttraumatic sepsis, TNFalpha serum concentrations were significantly higher in TNFB2-homozygous individuals compared with heterozygous and TNFB1 -homozygous individuals. The age- and injury-matched odds ratio for the homozygous TNFB2 genotype compared with the heterozygous genotype was 5.22 (p = 0.007, 95% confidence interval 1.6 to 17.9).

Conclusions: In multiply injured patients, the Nco1 polymorphism within the TNFbeta gene is associated with the development of severe posttraumatic sepsis and with increased TNFalpha serum levels when severe sepsis has occurred. This suggests a genetic determination of the individual inflammatory response after infection or tissue damage, which significantly influences susceptibility to severe nosocomial infections.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alleles
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Polymorphism, Restriction Fragment Length*
  • Sepsis / drug therapy
  • Sepsis / genetics*
  • Sepsis / microbiology
  • Trauma Severity Indices
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / genetics*
  • Wounds, Nonpenetrating / complications*


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha