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Health care continues trying to solve Sepsis

Posted Monday, July 9, 2018 by Tyler Goldberg-Hoss

Sepsis is a killer: over 250,000 people a year die from the blood infection each year. It is the third leading cause of death, behind cancer and heart disease.

Sepsis occurs when an infection somewhere in the body finds its way into the blood stream. Once there, the immune system recognizes the infection. Unfortunately, in an effort to combat sepsis, the immune system itself can cause serious symptoms by overwhelming the body with inflammatory chemicals.

Without identifying and addressing the cause of the infection, AND treating the serious symptoms, sepsis can lead to death. Early intervention appears to be very important in preventing this from occurring.

Recently, the FDA approved a new test that will more quickly identify the bacteria causing the infection from a blood sample, rather than having to culture it for days in a lab dish. This not only promises to allow earlier antibiotic treatment but also the right antibiotic treatment.

Today, patients typically receive a broad-spectrum antibiotic because clinicians don’t know what bacteria are causing the infection. Hopefully, with an earlier identification system, patients can avoid the sometimes dangerous side effects of a broad spectrum antibiotic and be given the right drug for the right bug.

Another avenue for speeding up detection and treatment come from the clinical practice in hospitals. Changes such as replacing catheters earlier than usual to avoid infections in the first place, starting patients on antibiotics in 15 minutes instead of an hour through the use of a “sepsis alert” system, and creating an acronym – “TIME” – to help clinicians remember the signs of sepsis: Temperature (too high or too low); Infection; Mental decline (confusion/sleepiness); and Extreme illness (including severe pain/discomfort).

To what extent these additional efforts reduce deaths from sepsis remain to be seen. If they are successful, hopefully they will be quickly adopted nationally as the standard of care in treating this deadly disease.

You can read more on this important topic, and see a great short video on what sepsis is, here:

Sepsis is the third leading cause of death. Can a new blood test change that?

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