N-acetylcysteine reduces respiratory burst but augments neutrophil phagocytosis in intensive care unit patients

Critical Care Medicine
A R HellerT Koch


The antioxidant N-acetylcysteine (NAC) has been shown to attenuate septic tissue injury. To evaluate whether NAC affects host defense mechanisms in critically ill patients, thus predisposing to increased risk of infection, the current study focuses on neutrophil phagocytotic and burst activity after treatment with NAC. Prospective, randomized, clinical trial. Twelve-bed operative intensive care unit in a university hospital. Thirty patients diagnosed with sepsis/systemic inflammatory response syndrome, or multiple trauma. Patients were randomly assigned to receive either NAC (n = 15) for 4 days in increasing dosages (day 1: 6 g; day 2: 12 g; days 3 and 4: 18 g) or a mucolytic basis dosage of NAC (3 x 300 mg/day [control]; n = 15), respectively. Blood samples were taken before NAC high-dose infusion (day 1), after increasing doses of NAC (days 3 and 5) and 4 days after the last high-dose treatment (day 8). Neutrophil oxidative burst activity after stimulation with Escherichia coli and polymorphonuclear phagocytosis were determined in a flow cytometric assay. Baseline values of polymorphonuclear functions were comparable in both groups. NAC high-dose treatment resulted in a significantly improved phagocytosis activity compared wi...Continue Reading


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