Ferguson, L. T., Rashied, A. A., Liang, Z. et al. 2023. A novel scoring system for humane endpoints in mice with cecal ligation and puncture-induced sepsis. Comparative Medicine 73(6), 446–460.

Animal-based research is essential to the study of sepsis pathophysiology, diagnostics, and therapeutics. However, animal models of sepsis are often associated with high mortality because of the difficulty in predicting imminent death based on premortem assessment of the animals. The use of validated visual scoring would allow researchers to systematically identify humane endpoints but visual approaches require high interobserver agreement for accurate results. The objective of this study was to establish a scoring system for mice undergoing cecal ligation and puncture (CLP)-induced sepsis based on 3 visual parameters: respiratory status, activity and response to stimulus (ASR), and eye appearance, with scores ranging from 0 to 3. In the first study, we evaluated interobserver agreement. Veterinary and investigative staff assessed 283 mice with CLP and had substantial to near-perfect agreement for all 3 parameters as evaluated using weighted Cohen κ statistic. The second study assessed the ability of the scoring system and temperature to predict death. The scoring system and subcutaneous transpond- ers were used to monitor C57BL/6J mice (n = 80, male and female) until death or for 7 days after CLP. Results showed that the scoring system discriminates between surviving (n = 26) and nonsurviving (n = 54) septic mice. The scoring system was accurate in predicting death, with an AUC of 0.8997. The sensitivity and specificity of the ASR parameter were 96% and 92%, respectively, and for the eye parameter were 94% and 73%. A sum of the ASR and eye scores that was 5 or more was also predictive of death. Temperature was a quantitative predictor, with sensitivity and specificity of 93% and 92%, respectively. This scoring system refines the CLP model by allowing identification of humane endpoints and avoidance of spontaneous death.

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