HLA-A Locus is Associated With Sepsis and Septic Shock After Traumatic Injury

Ann Surg. 2022 Jan 1;275(1):203-207. doi: 10.1097/SLA.0000000000003932.


Objective: Determine whether variation in the HLA region is associated with the development of post-traumatic sepsis and septic shock.

Background: Sepsis-related deaths remain a major source of mortality after traumatic injury. Genetic characteristics may contribute to susceptibility to adverse outcomes including sepsis and septic shock. Recent advances in next-generation sequencing technology now allow comprehensive genotyping of the HLA region.

Methods: White adult trauma patients requiring more than 2 days of mechanical ventilation underwent HLA genotyping, and were followed for the development of sepsis and septic shock. Odds ratios (OR) for the associations between our outcomes and HLA variants were estimated, a correction for multiple comparisons was applied, and significant variants were included in regression models adjusting for potential confounders.

Results: A total of 1184 patients were included. Patients were severely injured (median injury severity score 33); 33% developed sepsis, 6% septic shock, and in-hospital mortality was 14%. An amino acid variant (156Q) within the HLA-A peptide-binding groove was associated with greater odds of sepsis [OR 1.50, (1.18-1.89)]. HLA-A∗02:01 was associated with lower odds of septic shock [OR 0.52, (0.32-0.82)]. These associations remained significant after adjusting for potential confounders.

Conclusions: This is the first study to apply next-generation sequencing techniques to evaluate associations between immunogenetic factors and post-traumatic sepsis and septic shock. Associations with class I HLA variants are novel as they implicate adaptive immunity in post-traumatic sepsis. These findings are a step towards developing a panel of genetic markers assessing risk of infection-related complications as we move towards more personalized medicine.

Publication types

  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease*
  • Genotype
  • HLA-A Antigens / genetics*
  • High-Throughput Nucleotide Sequencing
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Sepsis / genetics*
  • Sepsis / immunology
  • Shock, Septic / genetics*
  • Shock, Septic / immunology
  • Wounds and Injuries / complications*


  • HLA-A Antigens