Injury to the body, when severe, can lead to SIRS – the body’s exaggerated defense response to a noxious stressor (infection, acute inflammation, trauma, burns, or other malignancies). The body will try to localize and eliminate the source of insult. A patient is diagnosed with sepsis when the suspected source is an infection, which may lead to more severe conditions and death if left untreated.
How is sepsis identified?
Sepsis is suspected when a patient presents with symptoms associated with severe infection, especially if they are in a high-risk category, including infants, the elderly, those with chronic illnesses, and those with weakened immune systems. Common sepsis symptoms include high heart rate, low blood pressure, and altered mental state. fever or chills, shortness of breath, extreme pain or discomfort, or clammy skin.
Severe sepsis occurs when in addition to sepsis, there are also signs of organ dysfunction. Most patients with severe sepsis require treatment in an intensive care unit (ICU). Patients with severe sepsis may further deteriorate into septic shock when their blood pressure drops to dangerous levels. Every hour of delayed treatment for a patient in septic shock increases mortality risk by 8%.5
In addition to symptoms and risk factors, there are several other sepsis screening and assessment protocols (ex. SIRS, qSOFA, MEWS, NEWS, etc.) – a combination of biometrics and physiological measurements that provide clinicians with a score that can be used to assess the risk of sepsis.
Antimicrobial treatment, along with fluid resuscitation, is the most common treatment method for patients with sepsis. For those without a confirmed source of infection, standard guidelines recommend physicians start patients suspected of bloodstream infections on broad-spectrum therapy.6 Broad-spectrum or empiric therapy treats many different organisms but does not necessarily target the specific bacterium or fungus causing the patient’s infection. Blood cultures have long been regarded as the gold standard for diagnosing BSIs, though they can take several days to deliver results.
For patients with sepsis, time is critical – faster time to result and time to targeted treatment leads to improved chances of survival against sepsis.7 While waiting for blood culture results, patient conditions may continue to deteriorate if the broad-spectrum antimicrobial therapy is ineffective against the underlying bloodstream infection. As a result of inappropriate or delayed antimicrobial treatment, patients are at risk of developing potentially life-threatening complications, such as sepsis and septic shock. With millions of people impacted by sepsis every year across the globe, it is critical for physicians to utilize effective diagnostic tools which enable fast initiation of targeted therapy.
Enhancing the standard of care for sepsis
Time is of the essence when combatting bloodstream infections and sepsis, making the lengthy nature of the current standard of care problematic. Today’s standard for detecting bloodstream infections includes obtaining blood cultures and waiting for a positive result, which can take between one and five days. Once the culture is positive, subsequent rapid diagnostics may be used for species identification. These post-culture molecular tests take a few hours to produce results after the initial waiting period of one to five days for a positive blood culture.