September 13 – Sepsis Awareness Day

Sepsis is a serious illness where the body attacks itself while fighting infection. The immune system overreacts to an infection in the body, releasing chemicals into the blood which cause widespread inflammation damaging healthy tissue and organs.

The fast-acting disease is considered a medical emergency. In severe sepsis the survival rate decreases by 8 percent per hour without antimicrobial treatment so rapid diagnosis is crucial.

Traditionally sepsis is diagnosed by monitoring vital signs but it is often missed in its early stages, the symptoms are vague and could apply to many conditions. Even in hospital intensive care units where vital signs are monitored constantly, 20 percent of patients develop sepsis.

The time factor is also affected by strained resources in hospitals. According to a recent study, sepsis patients in overcrowded emergency rooms experienced one hour delays before receiving antibiotic treatment. The study which was presented at the 2017 American Thoracic Society International Conference only included patients who exhibited sepsis on arrival at the emergency room.

Two months ago, a team of researchers from the University of Illinois and Carle Foundation Hospital completed a clinical study of a portable diagnostic device that may solve the time issue. The lab-on-a-chip device can detect immune response levels associated with sepsis in one drop of blood, immediately, without any need to process the blood.

The same team, during a newer study, identified five biomarkers in the blood which indicate early stage sepsis. They intend to update the device to read the additional biomarkers and further verify their research.

Sepsis awareness goes a long way to reducing fatal cases allowing the public to recognise the risks and advocate for themselves while empowering health professionals to recognise early warning signs and educate their patients.



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