Sepsis – new rapid test ‘could save thousands of lives’

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A new rapid test for earlier diagnosis of sepsis has been developed by University of Strathclyde researchers, which they say could save thousands of lives. They have developed a new test using microelectrode device which analyses the patient’s blood producing results in two and a half minutes.

Sepsis is hard to diagnose as it can initially look like flu, gastroenteritis or a chest infection. The diagnosis is usually based on body temperature, heart rate, breathing rate and sometimes a blood test. Current diagnosis for sepsis can take up to 72 hours. Early diagnosis is key when dealing with sepsis, because every hour that you delay antibiotic treatment, the likelihood of death increases.

The microelectrode devise is used to detect if one of the protein biomarkers of sepsis, interleukin-6 is present in the blood. They can be implanted and used on patients in intensive care to detect when sepsis levels go up or alternatively to rule out sepsis.

Researchers at the University of Strathclyde had estimated that the new test could be in use within three to five years. It is currently estimated that 52,000 people in the UK die every year from sepsis. The UK Sepsis Trust estimate that earlier diagnosis and treatment across the UK would save at least 14,000 lives a year from sepsis.

Kate Smith, Solicitor in the Medical Negligence team at Ashtons Legal comments: “We are aware how important every hour is to provide treatment for sepsis, therefore a test that allows for earlier diagnosis and intervention will not only save lives as well as other complications from sepsis, but also prevent cases of misdiagnosis where we hear of preventable deaths from sepsis. In order to ensure that this test is effective, it is important that the correct education is given to clinicians so they know when this test should be used to provide the best results.”


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