Early assessment of leukocyte alterations at diagnosis of septic shock

Shock. 2010 Oct;34(4):358-63. doi: 10.1097/SHK.0b013e3181dc0977.


A dramatic decrease in circulating lymphocyte number is regularly described after septic shock. However, it is unknown how early this alteration develops after diagnosis of shock and if it remains stable over time. Twenty-one septic shock patients with no comorbidities were included within 2 h after the beginning of vasopressive treatment. Flow cytometry phenotyping of circulating leukocyte subpopulations and quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction of T-bet, GATA-3, FOXP3, and RORγ mRNA were performed in patients from the diagnosis of shock and every 6 h during the subsequent 48 h. From their admission in the intensive care unit, patients present with major alterations of circulating leukocyte count (leukocytosis, neutrophilia, and major lymphopenia). The numbers of every lymphocyte subpopulations (T, B, and natural killer cells) were diminished. Gene expression analysis of transcription factors specific for TH1, TH2, CD4CD25 regulatory, and TH17 lymphocytes showed a severe decrease in comparison with healthy individuals' values. These alterations remain stable during the first 48 h after inclusion in the protocol despite early and aggressive resuscitation and antibiotherapy administered in patients. At the time of diagnosis of shock and admission in the intensive care unit, septic patients already present with severe lymphopenia involving every lymphocyte subsets including CD4 T-cell subpopulations. No significant variation could be detected within the first 48 h. This should be taken into account in the forthcoming clinical trials testing immunomodulating therapies in septic shock patients.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Female
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Forkhead Transcription Factors / genetics
  • GATA3 Transcription Factor / genetics
  • Humans
  • Lymphocytes / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nuclear Receptor Subfamily 1, Group F, Member 3 / genetics
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Shock, Septic / diagnosis*
  • Shock, Septic / metabolism*
  • T-Box Domain Proteins / genetics


  • FOXP3 protein, human
  • Forkhead Transcription Factors
  • GATA3 Transcription Factor
  • Nuclear Receptor Subfamily 1, Group F, Member 3
  • T-Box Domain Proteins
  • T-box transcription factor TBX21