A new test could help physicians predict within an hour if a patient will develop severe sepsis so they can begin treatment immediately. Sepsis, a syndrome caused by infection, leads to organ failure and is responsible for up to five million deaths annually. There are 18 million cases of sepsis worldwide every year. The discovery could cut back on the lengthy diagnostic time usually required to confirm if a patient is suffering from sepsis and increase the odds that they will respond to treatment.
The researchers identified a gene signature that is associated with the eventual diagnosis of sepsis and subsequent organ failure. The genetic signature can be tested for as soon as the patient arrives in the emergency ward. A typical diagnosis can take 24 to 48 hours but with this new test, physicians could start treating patients almost immediately. The new test for the genetic signature, published recently in the journal EBioMedicine, would take as little as one hour and identified 96 per cent of patients who were at the very early stages of sepsis.
The findings also reveal a potential misunderstanding about the disease. Until now sepsis has been treated as an inflammatory disease but more than 30 clinical trials of anti-inflammatory drugs for sepsis have failed. The gene signature identified by the researchers relates to a special type of immune suppression called cellular reprogramming and suggests that treating inflammation in sepsis is a bad idea.