What is the association between sepsis and jaundice in patients without biliary obstruction?

Up to 20% of cases of jaundice in community hospitals may be due to sepsis and bacterial infections, often occurring within a few days of onset of bacteremia or even before other clinical features of infection become apparent. 1 

Although biliary obstruction as the cause of jaundice is usually suspected, many patients lack extrahepatic cause for their jaundice. Gram-negative bacteria (eg, E. coli) are often the culprit with intraabdominal or urinary tract infection, pneumonia, endocarditis, and meningitis sources also often cited. Hyperbilirubinemia (often 2-10 mg/dl) is commonly associated with elevated alkaline phosphatase and mild aminotransferases elevations, and usually resolves with treatment of infection.1

Although factors such as increased bilirubin load from hemolysis, hepatocellular injury, and drugs (eg, penicillins and cephalosporins) may play a role, cholestasis—likely due to cytokines such as tumor necrosis factor (TNF)α— is the predominant cause. 1  

Interestingly, anti-TNF-α antibodies block reduction in bile flow and bile salt excretion in laboratory animals2

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  1. Chand N, Sanyal AJ. Sepsis-induced cholestasis. HEPATOLOGY 2007;45: 230-240. https://aasldpubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/hep.21480
  2. Whiting J, Green R, Rosenbluth A, Gollan J. Tumor necrosis factor-alpha decreases hepatocyte bile salt uptake and mediates endotoxin-induced cholestasis. HEPATOLOGY 1995;22:1273-1278. https://www.deepdyve.com/lp/wiley/tumor-necrosis-factor-alpha-decreases-hepatocyte-bile-salt-uptake-and-J9rdeMQBpF
What is the association between sepsis and jaundice in patients without biliary obstruction?

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