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Three-minute sepsis test could save thousands of lives, say scientists | UK News

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A new rapid test for sepsis could prevent thousands of deaths each year, researchers say.

A microelectrode device which analyses the patient’s blood, delivering results in two-and-a-half minutes, has been developed by researchers at Strathclyde University.

They hope the low-cost test could be available on the NHS in three to five years.

It is estimated that 52,000 people in the UK die every year from sepsis, which is a serious complication of an infection and difficult to diagnose.

The immune system starts to attack the body’s own organs and the condition can be fatal.

The test could be available on the NHS by 2022
Image:
The test could be available on the NHS by 2022

At present, it can take up to 72 hours to diagnose sepsis based on body temperature, heart rate, breathing rate, and a series of blood tests but it can easily be confused with flu, gastroenteritis or a chest infection.

Early diagnosis is key because every hour that you delay antibiotic treatment, the likelihood of death increases.

As soon as sepsis is suspected, broad-acting antibiotics are given to the patient but a blood test to decide which antibiotic to use can take up to 72 hours.

The new test uses a biosensor device to detect if one of the protein biomarkers of sepsis, interleukin-6 (IL-6), is present in the blood.

Around 52,000 people in the UK die every year from sepsis, a serious complication of an infection
Image:
Around 52,000 people in the UK die every year from sepsis, a serious complication of an infection

Dr Damion Corrigan, from the department of biomedical engineering at Strathclyde, said: “With sepsis, the timing is key. For every hour that you delay antibiotic treatment, the likelihood of death increases.

“At the moment, the 72-hour blood test is a very labour intensive process but the type of test we envisage could be at the bedside and involve doctors or nurses being able to monitor levels of sepsis biomarkers for themselves.

“If GP surgeries had access they could also do quick tests which could potentially save lives. It could also be available in A&E departments so that anyone coming in with a question mark could be quickly ruled in or out.”

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