Animal models of sepsis

Virulence. 2014 Jan 1;5(1):143-53. doi: 10.4161/viru.26083. Epub 2013 Aug 19.


Sepsis remains a common, serious, and heterogeneous clinical entity that is difficult to define adequately. Despite its importance as a public health problem, efforts to develop and gain regulatory approval for a specific therapeutic agent for the adjuvant treatment of sepsis have been remarkably unsuccessful. One step in the critical pathway for the development of a new agent for adjuvant treatment of sepsis is evaluation in an appropriate animal model of the human condition. Unfortunately, the animal models that have been used for this purpose have often yielded misleading findings. It is likely that there are multiple reasons for the discrepancies between the results obtained in tests of pharmacological agents in animal models of sepsis and the outcomes of human clinical trials. One of important reason may be that the changes in gene expression, which are triggered by trauma or infection, are different in mice, a commonly used species for preclinical testing, and humans. Additionally, many species, including mice and baboons, are remarkably resistant to the toxic effects of bacterial lipopolysaccharide, whereas humans are exquisitely sensitive. New approaches toward the use of animals for sepsis research are being investigated. But, at present, results from preclinical studies of new therapeutic agents for sepsis must be viewed with a degree of skepticism.

Keywords: drotrecogin alfa (activated); endotoxin; lipopolysaccharide; platelet activating factor; tifacogin; tumor necrosis factor.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Disease Models, Animal*
  • Humans
  • Lipopolysaccharides / immunology
  • Mice
  • Monkey Diseases / immunology
  • Monkey Diseases / microbiology
  • Papio
  • Sepsis / drug therapy*
  • Sepsis / immunology*
  • Sheep
  • Sheep Diseases / immunology
  • Sheep Diseases / microbiology


  • Lipopolysaccharides