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New test for sepsis unveiled

November 12, 2014
by Richard R. Rogoski
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Researchers at the University of British Columbia (UBC) have developed a genetic test that can predict within an hour if a patient will develop sepsis, a dangerous condition triggered by infection.

Their study, published in the journal EBioMedicine, noted that the test identified 96 percent of patients who were in the very earliest stages of sepsis in about 60 minutes.

“We identified a gene signature that is associated with the eventual diagnosis of sepsis and subsequent organ failure,” said Bob Hancock, a professor in UBC’s Dept. of Microbiology and Immunology and a co-author of the study, in a university press release. “We can test for this genetic signature as soon as the patient arrives in the emergency ward.”

Previous testing methods could take 24 to 48 hours to arrive at a diagnosis, delaying the start of treatment.

“With sepsis, every hour counts,” Hancock said. “The treatment involves aggressive antibiotics but the most potent drugs can’t be administered until a diagnosis is confirmed because of the risk of antibiotic resistant bacteria.”

Approximately 18 million cases of sepsis are diagnosed each year, resulting in up to 5 million deaths worldwide.