Xuebijing (XBJ) injection is a Chinese medicine containing extracts from Carthamus tinctorius L. (Carthami Flos, hong hua, Asteraceae), Paeonia lactiflora Pall. (Paeoniae radix rubra, chi shao, Ranunculaceae), Ligusticum chuanxiong Hort. (Chuanxiong Rhizoma, chuan xiong, Umbelliferae), Salvia miltiorrhiza Bge. (Salviae miltiorrhizae Radix Et Rhizoma, dan shen, Labiatae) and Angelica sinensis (Oliv.) Diels (Angelicae sinensis Radix, dang gui, Umbelliferae). It has been approved for the treatment of sepsis in China since 2004 and has been widely used as an add-on treatment for sepsis or septic shock with few side effects.
The aim of the present review was to analyse up-to-date information related to the treatment of sepsis with XBJ, including the bioactive constituents, clinical studies and potential mechanisms, and to discuss possible scientific gaps, to provide a reliable reference for future studies.
Scientific resources concentrating on treating sepsis with XBJ were searched through PubMed, the Chinese National Knowledge Infrastructure (CNKI) and WanFang databases from inception to November 2018. Dissertations were also searched, and eligible dissertations were selected. Studies related to the identification of constituents, bioactive components and their targets of action or pathways, clinical trials, and animal or cellular experiments that explored pharmacological mechanisms were manually selected. The quality of reporting and methodology of the included pharmacological experiments were assessed using the Animal Research: Reporting of In Vivo Experiments (ARRIVE) guidelines and the Systematic Review Centre for Laboratory Animal Experimentation (SYRCLE)’s risk of bias tool.
A total of 99 relative studies were eventually included, containing 12 bioactivity research studies, 10 systematic reviews on clinical trials and 86 animal or cellular experiments. We noted that as identification methods progressed, further constituents could be detected in XBJ. XBJ was also found to have “multi-ingredient, multi-target and multi-pathway” effects. The systematic review revealed that XBJ could improve the 28-day mortality and other indexes, such as the APACHE II score, body temperature, and white blood cell (WBC) count, to some extent. A major organ protection effect was demonstrated in septic rats. Pharmacological investigations suggested that XBJ acts in both the early and late stages of sepsis by anti-inflammatory, anti-coagulation, immune regulation, vascular endothelial protection, anti-oxidative stress and other mechanisms. However, most of the included studies were poorly reported, and the risk of bias was unclear.
With respect to the multiple therapeutic mechanisms contributing to both the early and late stages of sepsis, the multiple effective constituents detected and randomized controlled trials (RCTs) performed to prove its efficacy, XBJ is a promising therapy for the treatment of sepsis. However, although XBJ has shown some efficacy for the treatment of sepsis, there are currently some scientific gaps. More studies concerning the pharmacokinetics, interactions with antibiotics, real-world efficacy and safety, pharmacological mechanisms of the bioactive components and large-scale clinical trials should be conducted in the future.

Copyright © 2020. Published by Elsevier B.V.