U of Michigan Medical School researchers link gut microbiome, body temperature to sepsis

Until now, it has been largely unknown what drives body temperature variations in response to infections like sepsis. Now there may be an answer.

According to new research led by Robert Dickson, MD, associate professor at the University of Michigan Medical School in Ann Arbor, gut microbiome may play a larger role in regulating basal body temperature than previously thought — specifically in relation to infections like sepsis.

"We know that temperature response is important in sepsis, because it strongly predicts who lives and who dies," Dr. Dickson said in a recent university article about his team's research. It is what led his team to set out to find "what drives this variation and whether it can be modified to help patients."

Because infections like sepsis can lead to critically low blood pressure as well as dramatic changes in body temperature, aiming to provide patients experiencing these symptoms with care that prevents these dangerous effects is paramount for physicians. 

What Dr. Dickson and his team found indicates that a "variation in gut bacteria was correlated with patient's temperature trajectories while in the hospital. In particular, common bacteria from the Firmicutes phylum were most strongly associated with increased fever response," according to the university's article on the study. 

The research, which was published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, also points out that specifically the Lachnospiraceae family of bacteria was found to be "consistently associated with temperature trajectories in hospitalized patients, experimental sepsis, and antibiotic-treated mice."  

The team noted that while the findings are noteworthy and may explain more about the gut microbiome's role in response to diseases, additional research is necessary to determine specifically if "targeting the microbiome to modulate body temperature could help alter the outcome for patients with sepsis."

In conclusion, the team wrote that these findings clearly indicate that the gut microbiome "is a key modulator of body temperature variation both in health and critical illness, and is thus a major, understudied target for modulating physiologic heterogeneity in sepsis."

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