A Potential New Treatment for Sepsis

hospital-bedAn international research team recently reported a breakthrough in the treatment of a life-threatening condition that affects approximately 20 million people per year. Sepsis, or blood poisoning, occurs when bacteria from an infection (such as pneumonia or meningitis) gets into the bloodstream. The immune system goes into overdrive, causing inflammation that can result in blood clots, organ failure and death. The mortality rate for septic shock is as high as 50 percent.

Researchers discovered that immune cells in patients with severe sepsis produced abnormally high levels of SphK1, an enzyme that is activated during septic shock. Mice who received a SphK1 blocker experienced a reduced risk of death, increased protection from multi-organ failure, and an improved ability to get rid of the infection. The research, published in the June 4 issue of Science, could point to new treatment options for sepsis and other inflammatory diseases.

Sepsis is currently treated with antibiotics and steroids. Activated protein C, a natural protein that inhibits inflammation, has been shown to reduce the risk of death related to sepsis. However, it is ineffective for many patients and carries an increased risk of bleeding. The National Institute of General Medical Sciences has more information on sepsis here.

Early diagnosis and treatment are among the most crucial factors in surviving sepsis, a condition that costs the U.S. an estimated $17 billion annually. Reflectance Medical is developing a noninvasive system for the early diagnosis of severe sepsis. SIRS-Lab markets a diagnostic test that, according to the company, can identify sepsis pathogens in less than eight hours (compared to traditional blood culture tests, which may take 2-3 days). Some innovators working to treat sepsis include CytoGenix, Medinox, and Revotar Biopharmaceuticals.

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