The results of a meta-analysis reported online on April 12, 2013 in the journal Critical Care Medicine reveal a lower risk of mortality among hospitalized patients with sepsis who received intravenous selenium supplementation. Sepsis is an inflammatory state of the whole body caused by the immune system's reaction to infection. The condition can progress to septic shock, a condition characterized by a drop in blood pressure and organ dysfunction that can result in death if untreated.
For their analysis, researchers at McMaster University in Ontario selected nine trials that included a total of 792 men and women admitted to an intensive care unit with systemic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS), sepsis, severe sepsis or septic shock. Patients received 474 micrograms or more intravenous selenium daily, or a placebo with or without a maintenance dose of selenium of less than 100 micrograms per day for varying periods. (Some patients received higher loading doses followed by reduced maintenance doses.)
Although the length of intensive care unit stay or risk of pneumonia did not vary significantly between subjects who received selenium and those who received a placebo, men and women who received selenium had a 27% lower risk of death during the course of their hospitalizations. Because sepsis is associated with an increase in reactive oxygen species and a reduction in the body's own antioxidant capacity, authors Waleed Alhazzani, MD and colleagues hypothesize that supplementation with the mineral may improve the outcome of septic patients by enabling increased production of antioxidant selenoenzymes.
"If even a small favorable impact of selenium was genuine, given the low risk of adverse effects, and the high human and financial cost of critical care, selenium supplementation deserves consideration in more rigorous future research," they conclude.
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