Previously, we showed that mesenteric lymph generated following hemorrhagic shock increases endothelial cell permeability and contributes to lung injury. It has also been shown that lymph produced at the site of burn injury plays a role in altering pulmonary vascular hemodynamics. In addition, previous experimental work has suggested that organs and tissues distant from the injury site may contribute to pulmonary dysfunction. One explanation would be that gut-derived inflammatory factors (in addition to those produced locally at the site of injury) are reaching the pulmonary circulation, where they exert their effects via the gut lymphatics.
The 2 hypotheses herein were that (1) gut-derived factors carried in the mesenteric lymph of rats generated following thermal injury will contribute to lung injury and (2) intestinal bacterial overgrowth will potentiate the degree of burn-induced lung injury. These hypotheses were tested by examining the effect of mesenteric lymph flow interruption prior to thermal injury on burn-induced lung injury in rats with a normal intestinal bacterial flora and in rats with intestinal Escherichia coli overgrowth. These rats were termed E coli–monoassociated rats.
Normal intestinal bacterial flora and monoassociated male Sprague-Dawley rats were subjected to sham burn, 40% total body surface area burn, or lymphatic division plus burn. After 3 hours, 10 mg of Evans blue was injected to measure lung permeability. After the rats were killed, a bronchoalveolar lavage was performed and the fluid analyzed spectrophotometrically. Bronchoalveolar lavage fluid protein content, pulmonary myeloperoxidase activity, and alveolar apoptosis served to further quantitate lung injury.
Both normal intestinal bacterial flora and monoassociated-burned rats exhibited significant increases in lung permeability, bronchoalveolar lavage fluid protein content, myeloperoxidase activity, and alveolar apoptosis. The combination of monoassociation and thermal injury resulted in even further increases in lung injury over thermal injury alone. Lymphatic division prior to thermal injury ameliorated burn-induced increases in lung permeability, bronchoalveolar lavage fluid protein content, pulmonary myeloperoxidase accumulation, and alveolar apoptosis in both normal intestinal bacterial flora and monoassociated rats.
The results of this study support the hypothesis that gut-derived factors carried in the mesenteric lymph contribute to burn-induced lung injury and may therefore play a role in postburn respiratory failure and suggest that intestinal bacterial overgrowth primes the host such that when animals are exposed to a second stimulus (such as thermal injury) an exaggerated response occurs.