The molecular landscape of sepsis severity in infants: enhanced coagulation, innate immunity, and T cell repression

Susie Shih Yin Huang, Mohammed Toufiq, Pirooz Eghtesady, Nicholas Van Panhuys, Mathieu Garand

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: Sepsis remains a major cause of mortality and morbidity in infants. In recent years, several gene marker strategies for the early identification of sepsis have been proposed but only a few have been independently validated for adult cohorts and applicability to infant sepsis remains unclear. Biomarkers to assess disease severity and risks of shock also represent an important unmet need. Methods: To elucidate characteristics driving sepsis in infants, we assembled a multi-transcriptomic dataset from public microarray datasets originating from five independent studies pertaining to bacterial sepsis in infant < 6-months of age (total n=335). We utilized a COmbat co-normalization strategy to enable comparative evaluation across multiple studies while preserving the relationship between cases and controls. Results: We found good concordance with only two out of seven of the published adult sepsis gene signatures (accuracy > 80%), highlighting the narrow utility of adult-derived signatures for infant diagnosis. Pseudotime analysis of individual subjects’ gene expression profiles showed a continuum of molecular changes forming tight clusters concurrent with disease progression between healthy controls and septic shock cases. In depth gene expression analyses between bacteremia, septic shock, and healthy controls characterized lymphocyte activity, hemostatic processes, and heightened innate immunity during the molecular transition toward a state of shock. Discussion: Our analysis revealed the presence of multiple significant transcriptomic perturbations that occur during the progression to septic shock in infants that are characterized by late-stage induction of clotting factors, in parallel with a heightened innate immune response and a suppression of adaptive cell functionality.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1281111
JournalFrontiers in immunology
StatePublished - 2024


  • biomarker
  • blood
  • immune deconvolution
  • infant sepsis
  • sepsis severity
  • transcriptomic


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