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International Journal of Microbiology
Volume 2012 (2012), Article ID 151393, 8 pages
Review Article

Gut Microbial Translocation in Critically Ill Children and Effects of Supplementation with Pre- and Pro Biotics

1Pediatric Emergency and Intensive Care Division, Department of Pediatrics, Sapienza University of Rome, Viale Regina Elena 324, 00161 Rome, Italy
2Department of Public Health and Infectious Diseases, Sapienza University of Rome, 100161 Rome, Italy

Received 22 April 2012; Accepted 12 July 2012

Academic Editor: Vincenzo Vullo

Copyright © 2012 Paola Papoff et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Bacterial translocation as a direct cause of sepsis is an attractive hypothesis that presupposes that in specific situations bacteria cross the intestinal barrier, enter the systemic circulation, and cause a systemic inflammatory response syndrome. Critically ill children are at increased risk for bacterial translocation, particularly in the early postnatal age. Predisposing factors include intestinal obstruction, obstructive jaundice, intra-abdominal hypertension, intestinal ischemia/reperfusion injury and secondary ileus, and immaturity of the intestinal barrier per se. Despite good evidence from experimental studies to support the theory of bacterial translocation as a cause of sepsis, there is little evidence in human studies to confirm that translocation is directly correlated to bloodstream infections in critically ill children. This paper provides an overview of the gut microflora and its significance, a focus on the mechanisms employed by bacteria to gain access to the systemic circulation, and how critical illness creates a hostile environment in the gut and alters the microflora favoring the growth of pathogens that promote bacterial translocation. It also covers treatment with pre- and pro biotics during critical illness to restore the balance of microbial communities in a beneficial way with positive effects on intestinal permeability and bacterial translocation.