Epidemiologic studies suggest that the incidence and severity of sepsis are ameliorated in patients on statins (3- hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl coenzyme A reductase inhibitors) for cholesterol lowering indications. We sought to understand the mechanism underlying such protection and hypothesized that simvastatin would be protective in mice against acute infection with Staphylococcus aureus, the primary etiologic agent in sepsis. Mice were treated with simvastatin or buffer for two weeks and were subsequently challenged with S. aureus intratracheally or intravenously. Relative to buffer-treated mice, bacterial killing was enhanced 4-fold (p=0.02), systemic dissemination was reduced, and lethality was decreased (hazard ratio 8.8, 95% CI 2.5 to 31.3, p=0.001) in mice that were pretreated with simvastatin for two weeks. Systemic inflammatory response was abrogated and the local elaboration of inflammatory mediators was diminished. Serum concentrations of pro-fibrinolytic protein C were elevated (p=0.034), while the concentration of pro-coagulant tissue factor in bronchoalveolar lavage fluids was attenuated (reduced 25%), p=0.001, in simvastatin-treated mice. Taken together, these data indicate that extended treatment with simvastatin is protective during infection with S. aureus through enhanced bacterial clearance, anti-inflammatory, and anti-coagulant activities. These studies provide insights into the mechanism by which statins confer protection in acute infection, support the notion that statins may be effective adjuncts in the treatment of sepsis, and provide a rationale for randomized control trials in patients that are at a high risk for infection characterized by coagulopathy.
Keywords: Statins, Simvastatin, Staphylococcus aureus, Protein C, Tissue factor, sepsis, hypothesized, pro-fibrinolytic protein, coagulopathy, systemic inflammation, novel therapeutic approaches, simvastatin inhibits cellular invasion, lung histopathology, polyclonal antiserum
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