Sepsis in alcohol-related liver disease

J Hepatol. 2017 Nov;67(5):1031-1050. doi: 10.1016/j.jhep.2017.06.013. Epub 2017 Jun 22.


Alcohol-related liver disease (ALD) remains the most important cause of death due to alcohol. Infections, particularly bacterial infections, are one of the most frequent and severe complications of advanced ALDs, such as alcoholic cirrhosis and severe alcoholic hepatitis (sAH). The specific mechanisms responsible for this altered host defence are yet to be deciphered. The aim of the present study is to review the current knowledge of infectious complications in ALD and its pathophysiological mechanisms, distinguishing the role of alcohol consumption and the contribution of different forms of ALD. To date, corticosteroids are the only treatment with proven efficacy in sAH, but their impact on the occurrence of infections remains controversial. The combination of an altered host defence and corticosteroid treatment in sAH has been suggested as a cause of opportunistic fungal and viral infections. A high level of suspicion with systematic screening and prompt, adequate treatment are warranted to improve outcomes in these patients. Prophylactic or preemptive strategies in this high-risk population might be a preferable option, because of the high short-term mortality rate despite adequate therapies. However, these strategies should be assessed in well-designed trials before clinical implementation.

Keywords: Alcoholic cirrhosis; Bacteria and fungus; Corticosteroids; Immune dysfunction; Infection; Severe alcoholic hepatitis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Disease Progression
  • Humans
  • Liver Diseases, Alcoholic* / complications
  • Liver Diseases, Alcoholic* / diagnosis
  • Liver Diseases, Alcoholic* / physiopathology
  • Patient Care Management*
  • Risk Factors
  • Sepsis / etiology
  • Sepsis / prevention & control