Does glutamine reduce bacterial translocation? A study in two animal models with impaired gut barrier
Failure of intestinal barrier function and subsequent translocation of bacteria from the gut are believed to play a decisive role in the development of systemic septic complications, for example, following major trauma or major abdominal surgery. This study evaluated: (a) the effect of glutamine on colonic microcirculation and electrophysiological parameters reflecting gut barrier function, (b) the translocation of live bacteria to extraintestinal organs, and (c) disease outcome in two animal models with impaired gut barrier function. Severe acute pancreatitis or colitis was induced in rats randomized for therapy with or without glutamine (0.5 g/kg daily). After 48 h one animal group was prepared for intravital microscopy of colonic capillary blood flow and electrophysiological measurement of gut permeability; another was killed after 96 h for histological and microbiological examination. In animals with pancreatitis, glutamine (Gln) supplementation significantly improved gut permeability, i.e., Gln increased colonic transmucosal resistance from 67±7 to 92±3 Ω/cm2 and decreased mannitol flux through the epithelium by 53%. Capillary blood flow in the colonic mucosa was improved by 25%. The prevalence of pancreatic infections was reduced from 86% in animals on standard parenteral nutrition to 33% in animals given the Gln-enriched diet (P<0.05); mortality decreased by 32%. In colitis, Gln had no significant effect on these parameters except for improving colonic capillary blood flow in colon segments not adjacent to the major injury site. Glutamine supplementation improves colonic capillary blood flow, stabilizes gut permeability, and reduces secondary pancreatic infections and mortality in severe rodent pancreatitis, but it is not helpful in colitis. This confirms previous reports that glutamine stabilizes gut barrier function only in certain diseases. Our experimental data strongly suggest that acute pancreatitis (rather than colitis) is one of the diseases with gut barrier dysfunction in which glutamine substitution may be helpful to reduce bacterial translocation and should therefore be tested in a controlled clinical trial.
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