Background/aims: Cirrhotic patients are predisposed to develop spontaneous bacteremias and/or peritonitis, mainly caused by enteric bacteria. The aim of this study was to investigate if bacterial translocation, which is the passage of bacteria from the intestinal lumen to regional lymph nodes and/or the systemic circulation, is increased in a rat model of cirrhosis.
Methods: Rats were studied after 12-16 weeks of CCl4 inhalation, when samples of mesenteric lymph nodes, blood, liver, and spleen for standard bacteriologic cultures and a fragment of colon and liver for histology were obtained. Immunostaining of the cecum was performed using a polyclonal anti-Escherichia coli antibody.
Results: A significantly greater proportion of rats with cirrhosis and ascites (5 of 9; 56%) had positive mesenteric lymph node cultures compared with cirrhotics without ascites (0 of 9) and normal controls (0 of 12) (P < 0.01). In one cirrhotic rat, E. coli was isolated from both mesenteric lymph nodes and ascites. Rats with cirrhosis and ascites had significantly greater cecal submucosal edema and inflammation than rats with no ascites and controls. Immunoreactivity with E. coli was present in the cecal wall in 3 of 5 animals with E. coli translocation to mesenteric lymph nodes.
Conclusions: In cirrhotic rats, bacterial translocation is increased after the development of ascites and may be a major factor in the development of spontaneous infections in cirrhosis.