Patients with cirrhosis are prone to developing bacterial infections. Moreover, bacterial infection is the most common identifiable trigger of acute-on-chronic liver failure (ACLF), which is characterized by organ failures and a high risk of death. There is evidence of an excessive immune response of the host as a major mechanism leading to the development of organ failures in patients with cirrhosis. However, a role for direct tissue damage caused by bacterial toxins and virulence factors cannot be excluded. Failed tolerance mechanisms may also contribute to organ failures, although the involved mechanisms are unclear. A proportion of patients with infection-related ACLF have a prolonged stay in the intensive care unit. These patients have immune suppression, increased risk of superinfection and poor outcome. Immune suppression might be a consequence of the first infection episode that has led patients to be admitted to hospital.

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