"Ninja disease": Promising study finds hope for treatment and possible prevention

UAB sepsis study

Sepsis is a life threatening condition that occurs when an infection spreads through the blood stream and injures the body's own tissues and organs.

There are an estimated 18 million cases per year, world wide according to UAB's Department of Emergency Medicine.

"It's something that you handle on the inpatient side and then that's it, but we have to move outside the hospital," Doctoral candidate John Donnelly said.

Donnelly is the first author of the study.

One of the results, UAB was the first to determine two new classification systems are more predictive of serious outcomes in patients with infection.

Making it easier for doctors to detect and treat patients with sepsis.

"All of these initiatives are targeting a heightened recognition and extremely fast treatment," John Donnelly said.

He says they know how to treat sepsis in the hospital but know very little about what makes a person susceptible to the condition in the first place.

"That's most of the leg work that's left, is finding those factors and figuring out what we can do before someone hits the hospital door," John Donnelly said.

Dr. Henry Wang ice chair for research in the UAB Department of Emergency Medicine brought his experience to the table.

In their research, they looked at 30,000 people over ten years.

"One in twenty of the subjects were hospitalized for sepsis," Dr. Wang said.

It's estimated that 20 to 35 percent of people with severe sepsis die.

That's why Dr. Wang says looking beyond treatment at the hospital is so important.

"Our vision with regard sepsis study is to show that sepsis in fact could be a preventable disease, 50 years ago we believed that heart attack and strokes were random events, things that we could do nothing about," Dr. Wang said.

Today we know that's not the case, medicine and lifestyle help to prevent those conditions.

"We believe the same type of principle could be applied to sepsis, this in fact could be the most significant public health advancement in sepsis care," Dr. Wang said.

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