Sophorolipids Improve Sepsis Survival: Effects of Dosing and Derivatives

Rosemarie Hardin, Joelle Pierre, Robert Schulze, Cathy M. Mueller, Sophia L. Fu, Sabine R. Wallner, Albert Stanek, Vishal Shah, Richard A. Gross, Jeremy Weedon, Maja Nowakowski, Michael E. Zenilman, Martin H. Bluth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


Introduction: Sophorolipids, a family of natural and easily chemo-enzymatically modified microbial glycolipids, are promising modulators of the immune response. We have previously demonstrated that sophorolipids mediate anti-inflammatory effects, including decreasing sepsis-related mortality at 36 h in vivo in a rat model of septic peritonitis and in vitro by decreasing nitric oxide and inflammatory cytokine production. Here we assessed the effect of sophorolipids on sepsis-related mortality when administered as a (1) single bolus versus sequential dosing and (2) natural mixture versus individual derivatives compared with vehicle alone. Methods: Intra-abdominal sepsis was induced in male, Sprague Dawley rats, 200 to 240 g, via cecal ligation and puncture. Sophorolipids (5-750 mg/kg) or vehicle (ethanol/sucrose/physiological saline) were injected intravenously (i.v.) via tail vein or inferior vena cava at the end of the operation either as a single dose or sequentially (q24 h × 3 doses); natural mixture was compared with select sophorolipid derivatives (n = 10-15 per group). Sham-operated animals served as nonsepsis controls. Survival rates were compared at 1 through 6 d post sepsis induction and tissue was analyzed by histopathology. Significance was determined by Kruskal-Wallis analysis with Bonferroni adjustment and Student's t-test. Results: Sophorolipid treatment at 5 mg/kg body weight improved survival in rats with cecal ligation and puncture-induced septic shock by 28% at 24 h and 42% at 72 h for single dose, 39% at 24 h and 26% at 72 h for sequential doses, and 23% overall survival for select sophorolipid derivatives when compared with vehicle control (P < 0.05 for sequential dosing). Toxicity was evident and dose-dependent with very high doses of sophorolipid (375-750 mg/kg body weight) with histopathology demonstrating interstitial and intra-alveolar edema with areas of microhemorrhage in pulmonary tissue when compared with vehicle controls (P < 0.05). No mortality was observed in sham operated controls at all doses tested. Conclusions: Administration of sophorolipids after induction of intra-abdominal sepsis improves survival. The demonstration that sophorolipids can reduce sepsis-related mortality with different dosing regimens and derivatives provides continuing evidence toward a promising new therapy. Toxicity is evident at 75 to 150× the therapeutic dose in septic animals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)314-319
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Surgical Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Oct 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • derivatives
  • glycolipids
  • mortality
  • sepsis
  • sophorolipids
  • survival

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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