An article published online on August 9, 2011 in the journal Critical Care documents the finding of decreased levels of coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) in patients with septic shock. Sepsis is an inflammatory state resulting from the spread of infectious agents in the bloodstream. Sepsis and septic shock are a major cause of illness and mortality in the US, with over 215,000 deaths occurring each year.
For the current study, Harvard researchers utilized data from 14 patients with septic shock who participated in a placebo-controlled trial of statin drugs. Blood samples drawn from the septic patients prior to treatment and from 16 healthy controls were analyzed for coenzyme Q10, low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, and vascular endothelial and inflammatory markers.
While the control group had a median CoQ10 level of 0.95 micromoles per liter, which is similar to levels previously measured in healthy patients, the median baseline level for those with septic shock was 0.49 micromoles/liter. Higher CoQ10 levels were associated with lower levels vascular endothelial biomarkers and inflammatory cytokines, although only vascular cell adhesion molecule (VCAM) and interleukin-10 remained lower following the adjusted analysis.
The report's authors remark that those with septic shock had low levels of LDL prior to treatment, a finding that is consistent with the condition. Because LDL is the primary transport molecule for CoQ10, significant decreases in LDL could lead to a reduction in CoQ10 levels. Additionally, B vitamin and other nutrient deficiencies that occur in septic shock can limit the body's production of the coenzyme. "Identifying low CoQ10 levels in septic shock is significant as the compound is essential to mitochondrial function and may play an important role in the pathophysiology of mitochondrial dysfunction in sepsis," Michael W. Donnino and coauthors write. "Our finding that CoQ10 is low in sepsis opens the possibility for potential therapeutic intervention as CoQ10 can be administered exogenously."
"To our knowledge, this is the first report on the levels of CoQ10 in human subjects with septic shock," they announce. "Larger prospective observational trials measuring CoQ10 in this patient population are required."