- US researchers have developed the new test that requires a drop of blood
- It looks for the activation of white blood cells and gives results in 4 hours
- Scientists say this would indicate the body is ready to fight the infection
A simple blood test could detect sepsis within hours rather than days and save thousands of lives, scientists claim.
The deadly blood infection can kill within just two days, but current tests to detect it take just as long – sometimes longer.
But a new test that requires just a drop of blood will allow doctors to see if the immune system is activated to fight sepsis has been created.
Each year more than 150,000 Britons are admitted to hospital with sepsis and it kills more than 44,000 – more than bowel, breast and prostate cancer combined.
But if detected early enough, doctors say it is possible to treat the infection with antibiotics.
A simple blood test could detect sepsis within hours rather than days and save thousands of lives, scientists claim
US researchers have developed the new test which requires just a pinprick of blood to detect the infection within four hours.
It looks for the activation of certain white blood cells, which would indicate the immune system was going to work to fight the infection.
It also allows them to retest after giving medication to make sure the body’s response is returning to normal.
The research, published in the journal Science Daily, was done on stem cells but clinical trials with patients is planned to start this month.
Lead researcher Dr Dimitri Pappas, from Texas Tech University, said: ‘Normally when you detect sepsis, you do it through bacterial culture; that takes two days on the short end to 15 days on the long end.
‘Most people die of sepsis at two days. The detection currently is on the exact same time scale as mortality, so we’re trying to speed that up.
‘Instead of the bacteria, we’re looking at the body’s immune response to those bacteria, because that’s what you really care about.
‘The bacteria cause the infection, but it’s the body’s response that causes sepsis.’
The deadly blood infection can kill within just two days, but current tests to detect it take just as long – sometimes longer
Sepsis begins with systemic inflammatory response syndrome when the body ramps up the immune system to fight the bacteria.
It progresses into sepsis and eventually septic shock, in which blood pressure plummets, organs fail and eventually the patient dies.
Those at risk are the very young or very old, those with weakened immune systems, patients hospitalised with a serious illness, just had surgery or who have wounds or injuries from an accident.
Doctors fear sepsis as the body’s immune system goes into overdrive as it tries to fight the blood-borne infection.
BLOOD TEST FOR HEART ATTACK RISK
A genetic test could identify people at risk of a heart attack a decade in advance, scientists claimed in September.
Calculating someone’s coronary ‘risk score’, based on their genetic make-up, could help doctors prevent countless heart attacks, experts say.
Coronary heart disease, in which the major arteries become clogged, kills nearly 70,000 people in Britain each year.
While in the US, nearly 380,000 die from hearts attacks as a result of the disease annually.
This can reduce the blood supply to vital organs such as the brain, heart and kidneys and without quick treatment, sepsis can lead to multiple organ failure and death.
Professor Pappas added: ‘The way they treat sepsis right now is through a massive antibiotic administration.
‘That’s good, actually, but if you do it prophylactically and when it’s not needed, you’re basically helping create drug-resistant bacteria.
‘So there’s a need to detect sepsis and to treat it but not to over treat it as well, because over treating it leads to additional problems.’
This comes after NICE ordered doctors and nurses in the UK to treat sepsis with the same urgency as heart attacks earlier this year.
They must ask themselves ‘could this be sepsis?’ whenever they see patients with a rash, high temperature or raised pulse.
Anyone suspected of having the deadly condition must be sent to hospital via emergency ambulance and be seen immediately by a senior doctor or nurse.
NICE’s first-ever guidelines for diagnosing and treating sepsis follow a damning report into the death of one-year-old William Mead in 2014 which exposed a string of NHS failures.
NICE confirmed that William’s death had resulted in the guidelines being published far earlier than planned.
The watchdog started drawing up the recommendations early in 2014, before William died, amid concerns that thousands of patients were dying needlessly.