Prolonged Reactive Oxygen Species Production following Septic Insult

Immunohorizons. 2021 Jun 18;5(6):477-488. doi: 10.4049/immunohorizons.2100027.


The dysregulated host response and organ damage following systemic infection that characterizes a septic event predisposes individuals to a chronic immunoparalysis state associated with severe transient lymphopenia and diminished lymphocyte function, thereby reducing long-term patient survival and quality of life. Recently, we observed lasting production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) in mice that survive sepsis. ROS production is a potent mechanism for targeting infection, but excessive ROS production can prove maladaptive by causing organ damage, impairing lymphocyte function, and promoting inflammaging, concepts paralleling sepsis-induced immunoparalysis. Notably, we observed an increased frequency of ROS-producing immature monocytes in septic hosts that was sustained for greater than 100 days postsurgery. Recent clinical trials have explored the use of vitamin C, a potent antioxidant, for treating septic patients. We observed that therapeutic vitamin C administration for sepsis limited ROS production by monocytes and reduced disease severity. Importantly, we also observed increased ROS production by immature monocytes in septic patients both at admission and ∼28 days later, suggesting a durable and conserved feature that may influence the host immune response. Thus, lasting ROS production by immature monocytes is present in septic patients, and early intervention strategies to reduce it may improve host outcomes, potentially reducing sepsis-induced immunoparalysis.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Animals
  • Antioxidants / pharmacology*
  • Antioxidants / therapeutic use
  • Ascorbic Acid / pharmacology*
  • Ascorbic Acid / therapeutic use
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Female
  • Healthy Volunteers
  • Humans
  • Leukocytes, Mononuclear / immunology*
  • Leukocytes, Mononuclear / metabolism
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Middle Aged
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism*
  • Sepsis / blood
  • Sepsis / diagnosis
  • Sepsis / immunology*
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Young Adult


  • Antioxidants
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Ascorbic Acid