Propofol sedation exacerbates kidney pathology and dissemination of bacteria during Staphylococcus aureus bloodstream infections

Lavanya Visvabharathy, Nancy E. Freitag*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is responsible for large numbers of postsurgical nosocomial infections across the United States and worldwide. Propofol anesthesia is widely used in surgery and in intensive care units, and recent evidence indicates that even brief exposure to propofol can substantially increase host susceptibility to microbial infection. Here, we delineate the impact of propofol sedation on MRSA bloodstream infections in mice in the presence and absence of prophylactic antibiotic treatment. Consistent with previous reports, brief periods of anesthesia with propofol were sufficient to significantly increase bacterial burdens and kidney pathology in mice infected with MRSA. Propofol exposure increased neutrophilic infiltrates into the kidney and enhanced bacterial dissemination throughout kidney tissue. Propofol sedation reduced populations of effector phagocytes and mature dendritic cells within the kidney and led to the apparent expansion of myeloid-derived suppressor cell-like populations. When propofol was coadministered with vancomycin prophylaxis, it dramatically increased kidney abscess formation and bacterial dissemination throughout kidney tissue at early times post-S. aureus infection compared to antibiotic-treated but nonsedated animals. Taken together, our data indicate that short-term sedation with propofol significantly increases the severity of bloodstream MRSA infection, even when administered in conjunction with vancomycin prophylaxis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere00097-17
JournalInfection and immunity
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2017


  • Anesthesia
  • Bacterial pathogenesis
  • Immune suppression
  • Kidney abscess
  • MRSA
  • Macrophages
  • Monocytes
  • Vancomycin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Infectious Diseases
  • Parasitology
  • Microbiology
  • Immunology


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