, Volume 38, Issue 12, pp 2063-2071
Date: 31 Oct 2012

Beneficial effects of stress-dose corticosteroid therapy in canines depend on the severity of staphylococcal pneumonia

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The effects of stress-dose corticosteroid therapy were studied in a canine staphylococcal pneumonia model of septic shock.


Immediately following intrabronchial bacterial challenge, purpose-bred beagles were treated with stress doses of desoxycorticosterone (DOC), a mineralocorticoid agonist, and dexamethasone (DEX), a glucocorticoid agonist, or with placebo for 96 h. Oxacillin (30 mg/kg every 8 h) was started 4 h after infection onset. Bacterial dose was titrated to achieve 80–90 % lethality (n = 20) using an adaptive design; additional animals (n = 18) were investigated using the highest bacterial dose.


Initial analysis of all animals (n = 38) demonstrated that the effects of DOC + DEX were significantly altered by bacterial dose (p = 0.04). The treatment effects of DOC + DEX were different in animals administered high or relatively lower bacterial doses in terms of survival (p = 0.05), shock reversal (p = 0.02), interleukin-6 levels (p = 0.02), and temperature (p = 0.01). DOC + DEX significantly improved the above parameters (p ≤ 0.03 for all) and lung injury scores (p = 0.02) after high-dose bacterial challenges, but not after lower challenges (p = not significant for all). Oxacillin trough levels were below the minimum inhibitory concentration of the infecting organism, and DOC + DEX increased the frequency of persistent staphylococcal bacteremia (odds ratio 3.09; 95 % confidence interval 1.05–9.11; p = 0.04).


Stress-dose corticosteroids were only beneficial in cases of sepsis with high risk for death and even short courses may interfere with host mechanisms of bacterial clearance.

The findings in this study have been partially previously presented as a poster at the Society of Critical Care Medicine 40th Critical Care Congress in San Diego, California (January 2011).