Other promising research suggests that gene therapy may prove important in tackling sepsis, by targeting a protein produced in the body called NF-kB, which malfunctions during sepsis. If successful, these and other treatments in development have the potential to save lives and reduce the long-term impact of the disease on survivors.
The latest research seems promising, but the greatest defence we have against sepsis is awareness of the condition in medical professionals and the public. But at the moment awareness is alarmingly low across the world.
Surveys suggest that only 40 per cent of people in Australia have heard of sepsis and only one-third of this group are able to identify a single symptom. Figures are even lower in Brazil where only 14% of the public know what it is. And, although campaigning in the UK and Germany has created an awareness in over 60% of people, knowledge of the warning signs is still limited.
As you’d expect, awareness is higher among healthcare professionals – but there is a need for greater education within this group. A definite diagnosis is often difficult, and efforts are being made to establish clear guidance for healthcare workers across the world, including the roll-out of an internationally recognised protocol called Sepsis6.
With time, scientific research may provide new treatments – but in the short term, greater awareness of the condition among the public and medical professionals is likely to have the biggest effect on saving lives and minimising harm. So always ask: “Could it be sepsis?”