Every year about 750,000 people in the U.S. get sepsis, often while in the hospital.
The severe inflammatory reaction to infection can cause organ failure and kills an estimated 200,000 Americans each year.
University of Pennsylvania doctor David Gaieski said for decades medicine has searched for a ‘magic bullet’ to treat sepsis.
“What we’ve realized is that we need several different approaches,” Gaieski said. “Earlier identification, earlier treatment with antibiotics, and medicines and fluids to stabilize the blood pressure, and then find other therapies to treat specific groups of patients.”
This new treatment would fall into that last category.
It uses a rapid diagnostic test to identify a subset of sepsis patients with a specific toxin in their blood that can trigger organ failure.
Then, it removes the toxin.
“Essentially what is happening, in it’s simplest form, is they’re being hooked up to a dialysis machine and the endotoxin is literally being sucked out of the blood,” said Dr. Stephen Trzeciak, an investigator with the trial and emergency department physician at Cooper University Hospital in Camden.
If the treatment is proven effective and makes it to market, it is unclear exactly how many sepsis patients would benefit from it.
“Sepsis is so common, and associated with such a high mortality rate, that even modest improvements in survival would represent a major public health benefit,” Trzeciak said.
Cooper is one of more than a dozen medical centers in the U.S. and Canada testing the treatment.