Sepsis, commonly referred to as blood poisoning, is a life-threatening condition that occurs when the body’s response to an infection triggers an overwhelming immune response, which can lead to organ failure and death. In the UK alone, sepsis claims the lives of approximately 48,000 people each year, surpassing the combined mortality rates of breast, prostate, and bowel cancer.
However, a glimmer of hope has emerged in the fight against this silent killer. Scientists at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust in London are conducting trials for a groundbreaking blood test that can rapidly identify sepsis. The test, which focuses on the action of immune cells called neutrophils, has the potential to provide results in just 45 minutes.
Neutrophils produce genetic material webs that trap infections and prevent their spread. When there is an excessive production of these webs, it serves as an alarm that the immune system is attacking too aggressively, indicating the presence of sepsis. The new blood test aims to detect this early warning sign by measuring the levels of proteins produced by these webs.
If proven effective, this test could revolutionize sepsis diagnosis by enabling healthcare professionals to identify patients with sepsis promptly. Early detection is crucial, as mortality rates increase every hour that treatment is delayed. Administering antibiotics at the earliest stages of sepsis can prevent the condition’s progression and potentially save thousands of lives each year.
The year-long study will analyze the protein levels of 500 patients with sepsis or septic shock in intensive care at St Thomas’ Hospital. Compared to the current range of blood tests used to diagnose infections, this new test offers greater precision and the potential to detect signs of sepsis at an earlier stage, allowing for more rapid initiation of treatment.
Experts in the field emphasize the significance of adopting this test if it proves successful. Dr. Ron Daniels, chief executive of the UK Sepsis Trust, highlights the importance of identifying high-risk patients to prioritize their treatment. He believes that if this research confirms the effectiveness of the protein-based risk stratification tool, countless lives can be saved.
The Mail’s End the Sepsis Scandal campaign has played a pivotal role in raising awareness among patients and healthcare professionals about the symptoms of sepsis. This campaign led to the publication of NHS quality standards for diagnosing and treating sepsis, further emphasizing the urgency to address this issue.
Melissa Mead, whose son William tragically died from sepsis in 2014 after doctors dismissed concerns, emphasizes the potential impact of this blood test. She believes that if her son had undergone this test, it would have raised immediate alarm bells, potentially saving his life. However, she also emphasizes the importance of suspicion in sepsis diagnosis, as the test can only be practical if healthcare professionals suspect sepsis in the first place.