Importance of hemostatic gene polymorphisms for susceptibility to and outcome of severe sepsis

Crit Care Med. 2004 May;32(5 Suppl):S313-9. doi: 10.1097/01.ccm.0000126363.46191.dc.


Individuals vary considerably in their susceptibility to infection and in their ability to recover from apparently similar infectious processes. These differences can be partially explained by polymorphisms of the genes encoding proteins involved in mediating and controlling the innate immune response, the inflammatory cascade, coagulation, and fibrinolysis. It is evident from experimental studies that dysregulation of the coagulation system, which is characteristic of the pathophysiology of septic shock (a procoagulant and antifibrinolytic state), contributes to systemic inflammation and death in sepsis. Several genetic variations in proteins that increase coagulation or impair anticoagulation and fibrinolysis have been described. Thus, polymorphisms have been reported in prothrombin, fibrinogen, factor V, tissue factor, endothelial protein C receptor, and plasminogen activator inhibitor-1 genes. Some of them are associated with an increased risk of pulmonary emboli, acute myocardial infarction, stroke, and severe sepsis. Hence, the deletion polymorphism (4G) within the promoter region of the plasminogen activator inhibitor-1 gene leads to impaired fibrinolysis and influences the severity and outcome of meningococcal disease and the susceptibility to severe sepsis and multiple organ failure after trauma. The factor V Leiden mutation is associated with thrombotic events and has been reported to exacerbate purpura fulminans in meningococcal infection. Surprisingly, this genetic variant seems to provide a survival advantage in severe sepsis, underlying the extreme complexity of the interaction between inflammation and coagulation. The study of genetic polymorphisms might provide important insights into the pathogenesis of severe sepsis and could make it possible to identify individuals who are at risk of developing or dying of severe infections. As genetic associations are discovered, medical practice can become more preemptive, using the predictive ability of genetics to anticipate disease and recommend therapy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Blood Coagulation / genetics*
  • Fibrinolysis / genetics
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease*
  • Humans
  • Polymorphism, Genetic*
  • Prognosis
  • Protein C / genetics
  • Protein C / physiology
  • Sepsis / genetics*
  • Sepsis / therapy
  • Severity of Illness Index


  • Protein C