New research could help speed up the detection of sepsis
Sepsis kills roughly 11 million people around the world each year . Early diagnosis is very important for survival, as if not managed promptly, it can lead to septic shock, multiple organ failure and death.
A new journal article, co-authored by Professor Christopher Gwenin of the Department of Chemistry at Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University, has explored a new method of sepsis detection which could result in faster, more accurate and more accessible testing devices in the near future.
Sepsis, informally known as blood poisoning or blood infection, can affect anyone with an infection, serious injury, or other serious illness, particularly in cases where people's immune system is compromised. When left untreated the infection spreads throughout the body and results in a heightened response from the immune system, causing it to attack healthy cells.
The long-term effects of Covid-19, such as weakened heart function, can increase the susceptibility of sepsis.
"Viral infections, like Covid-19, are becoming more commonly related to sepsis cases, as a higher number of people in hospital are experiencing a secondary infection contracted from an increased stay" said Professor Gwenin.
The WHO states that identifying and not underestimating the signs and symptoms of sepsis - shortness of breath, coughing and fever - are crucial elements for early diagnosis, however these symptoms are typical of many illnesses which can complicate a diagnosis. Detecting sepsis is crucial, as Gwenin explained: "Results from a retrospective study have shown an average increase in mortality by 7.6% for every one-hour delay in the administration of antibiotics in patients with septic shock.”
Gwenin's paper discuses a testing method known as Solid-Phase RPA. This uses a device a bit like a pregnancy test, where a sample is passed over a specially treated strip, giving a result in a short space of time. “A method like this reduces run time as well as the cost of the device,” Professor Gwenin said.
More research is needed, but Solid-Phase RPA shows promise towards a test that could help identify sepsis as well as a wide range of pathogens in under an hour, without the need for expensive equipment.
Dexcom: changing the lives of people with type 1 diabetes
It is estimated that 9.3% of adults around the world are living with type 1 diabetes, which amounts to a total of 463 million people. A further 1.1 million children and adolescents under the age of 20 are living with the condition.
Unlike the more prevalent type 2 diabetes, where the body still produces insulin and symptoms develop slowly, people with type 1 diabetes need regular insulin injections or pumps, and must monitor their sugar levels frequently.
In recent years a number of remote glucose monitoring systems have become available that patients can use at home. These work with a sensor, usually placed under the skin, that measures glucose levels every few minutes. This information is then transmitted wirelessly to a device like a smartphone or tablet, which can then be shared with their clinician.
British actress Nina Wadia's son Aidan, 14, has type 1 diabetes, and has been managing his condition using Dexcom, a glucose monitoring system used by patients all over the world. Here Wadia explains how Dexcom has improved their lives.
As a parent of someone with type 1 diabetes, what is your day-to-day life like?
Being able to take a breath, think and pivot constantly without getting frustrated becomes an essential mindset because sometimes it feels like each day is determined to be different from the day before. Whatever worked yesterday is going to misfire today.
Which areas of yours and Aidan’s life are most impacted by diabetes?
The one thing that you have to fight hard to reclaim is spontaneity, especially when it comes to food and exercise. It’s only when this is taken do you realise how essential each one is. You can be flexible and there are no real limits, but only in the sense that a great athlete can be flexible without limits because they’ve trained super hard to be that way. So we’ve all had to become athletes when it comes to being spontaneous.
How has Dexcom helped you and Aidan?
Dexcom has brought future science fiction to real life today. The continuous glucose monitoring system is tiny, sits discreetly on his body and gives him a ten-day breather between sensor changes, so it's goodbye finger-pricking seven times daily.
Dexcom is totally active at a grass roots level and for Diabetes Awareness has pledged to donate £2,000 if #DexcomDiabetesStories and/or #DexcomWarriorStories is shared 200 times! I’ll be sharing more on social media and would love to hear how other families are winning their fights.
Maybe most importantly Dexcom is trying to introduce a reimbursement programme for type 1 diabetes patients which will give greater access to modern, life changing hi-tech. I want to spread the word on the importance of accessing it through this campaign.
If you compared your life today with how it was before Aidan was using Dexcom, what has changed?
It's always working, which lets him take his mind off diabetes for longer stretches. It also lets me get off his back. We both receive alerts so I no longer have to pester him by asking him what his number is, and especially importantly, I don’t have to wake him at night to prick his finger if I’m worried. Dexcom gave us back our sleep!