A fat hormone that might lead to death from potentially deadly blood infection has been identified by a research team led by an Indian-origin scientist.
The team from St. Michael's Hospital and the University of Toronto has found that lower-than-normal levels of a naturally-occurring fat hormone, called adiponectin, might increase the risk of death from sepsis.
Adiponectin is a hormone secreted by visceral fat surrounding the abdominal organs.
The study conducted using mice designed to mimic what occurs in people with low levels of adiponectin showed that those with low levels of the hormone were at much greater risk of dying from a blood infection.
However, sepsis could be prevented if the animals were given additional adiponectin.
"We hypothesized that low adiponectin levels might predispose such individuals to develop sepsis and sepsis-related problems," said Dr. Subodh Verma, a cardiac surgeon at St. Michael's Hospital and associate professor of surgery at the University of Toronto who holds the Canada Research Chair in Atherosclerosis.
"This initial hypothesis was borne out by our latest research," he added.
The risk of dying from sepsis after surgery is known to be two-and-a-half to three times higher in people with "metabolic syndrome" - a combination of factors including abdominal obesity, high blood fat composition, high blood pressure, diabetes, and high inflammatory and blood clot indicators.
People with these conditions tend to have lower levels of adiponectin, which may prime them to greater sepsis related complications.
Verma suggests that low adiponectin levels may help predict which patients are vulnerable to sepsis-related inflammation and are at a greater risk of dying from sepsis.
In addition, treatment strategies or approaches that cause an increase in adiponectin levels may lower a person's risk of death from severe sepsis.
The findings were presented at the 2009 Clinical Congress of the American College of Surgeons held in Chicago.