Discovery could speed sepsis treatment

Share this content:

Nursing home residents might benefit from a new way of diagnosing and treating sepsis made possible by a discovery at the University of British Columbia.

A still-undeveloped test would look for a gene signature identified by UBC researchers. It could cut the current 24- to 48-hour window for diagnosis down to about an hour. A 2013 report found one-quarter of Medicare patients in long-term care are hospitalized for the bloodstream infection.

Bob Hancock, Ph.D., told McKnight's the technology for a test already exists. Hancock and his colleagues found a specific gene signature in 593 patients with early sepsis. In the future, a long-term care resident might give a blood sample for mass spectrometry testing. If the complex gene expression is present, sepsis and organ failure will follow.

The  discovery shows  “cellular amnesia” in macrophages causes them to ignore infections, leading to an inflammatory response, he said. Hancock proposed using interferon gamma, already approved by the Food and Drug Administration for conditions including chronic granulomatous disease.

Complete findings appeared in EBioMedicine