To determine the effect of infection on pancreatic alpha-cell function, plasma glucagon was measured in 22 nondiabetic patients hospitalized with bacterial infection. Glucagon averaged 409 ± 129 pg per milliliter(mean ± S.E.M.) in six patients with severe infection and 185 ± 31 pg per milliliter in 11 with moderate infection, values significantly greater than the mean fasting concentration of 75 ± 4 pg per milliliter found in healthy subjects. The elevated value in all groups returned to normal with recovery. Experimental pneumonococcal pneumonia in dogs was also associated with hyperglucagonemia. Hyperglucagonemia induced in alloxan-diabetic dogs by zinc glucagon given in addition to their usual insulin produced hyperglycemia, glycosuria and an increase in urine volume and urea excretion. Thus, in man and in dogs, infection appears to be accompanied by hyperglucagonemia. In diabetic dogs the glucagon elevation can cause worsening of the diabetic state. This effect may explain infection-induced deterioration frequently observed in diabetic patients.
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