Statins may offer protective effects in sepsis through anti-inflammatory, mitochondrial protection and other actions. We thus evaluated the effects of simvastatin on survival, organ and mitochondrial function, tissue and plasma ubiquinone levels and liver transcriptomics in a 3-day rat model of sepsis. Comparisons of rat plasma simvastatin and ubiquinone levels were made against levels sampled in blood from patients with acute lung injury (ALI) enrolled into a trial of statin therapy. Animals received simvastatin by gavage either pre- or post-induction of faecal peritonitis. Control septic animals received vehicle alone. Seventy-two-hour survival was significantly greater in statin pre-treated animals (43.7%) compared with their statin post-treated (12.5%) and control septic (25%) counterparts (P<0.05). Sepsis-induced biochemical derangements in liver and kidney improved with statin therapy, particularly when given pre-insult. Both simvastatin pre- and post-treatment prevented the fall in mitochondrial oxygen consumption in muscle fibres taken from septic animals at 24 h. This beneficial effect was paralleled by recovery of genes related to fatty acid metabolism. Simvastatin pre-treatment resulted in a significant decrease in myocardial ubiquinone. Patients with ALI had a marked variation in plasma simvastatin acid levels; however, their ubiquinone/low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol ratio did not differ regardless of whether they were receiving statin or placebo. In summary, despite protective effects seen with statin treatment given both pre- and post-insult, survival benefit was only seen with pre-treatment, reflecting experiences in patient studies.

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