Biomarkers as effective at predicting sepsis as patient monitoring

Sepsis, an immune system overreaction to an infection that can lead to death, occurs in roughly 20 percent of patients in intensive care units.
By Amy Wallace   |   Sept. 7, 2017 at 1:08 PM
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Sept. 7 (UPI) -- Researchers at the University of Illinois at found that biomarkers in the blood are as effective at predicting sepsis as long-term patient monitoring.

Sepsis is a deadly and rapidly moving medical condition where the immune system overreacts to an infection in the body triggering widespread inflammation that can lead to death.

"Sepsis is a process that happens very rapidly. A patient could change from stable to near death in a matter of days or hours," Ruoqing Zhu, a professor of statistics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, said in a press release. "Data show us that if a patient is treated within a few hours of showing symptoms, there is a high survival rate. But as time lengthens, survival rate drops dramatically. So early decision-making is very crucial in treating sepsis."

Roughly 20 percent of patients in intensive care units develop sepsis, and their care accounts for more than 5 percent of healthcare costs in the United States. The current standard for diagnosing sepsis is to monitor a patient's vital signs for symptoms over a lengthy period of time.

For the study, published today in Scientific Reports, researchers identified five key sepsis biomarkers that could predict sepsis as well as long-term patient monitoring.

"These biomarkers are the first things that get triggered in the progression of the disease, so it makes sense to look at them if you want to make a more accurate early diagnosis," Ishan Taneja, the first author of the study, said.

Researchers used blood samples and vital sign data from electronic medical records of patients in the intensive care unit and emergency room at Carle Foundation Hospital to see if the biomarkers could identify early or peak stages of sepsis.

The study showed that by combining biomarker data with electronic medical record data resulted in the greatest predictive power, but researchers also found that biomarkers alone had even greater predictive power.

"These results support that the biomarkers reflect your health status quicker than outward signs," Zhu said. "Vital signs and other symptoms are observed from outside the patient, but biomarkers show what's going on inside the body. They change immediately once certain processes are triggered."

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