Blood analysis could help predict sepsis in children


Wednesday, 27 March, 2024

Blood analysis could help predict sepsis in children

Research involving more than 900 critically ill children in the emergency departments and intensive care units of four hospitals in Queensland has led to the discovery of a method for early sepsis diagnosis.

Associate Professor Lachlan Coin from University of Queensland’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience said sepsis was a life-threatening condition where a severe immune response to infection causes organ damage.

Researchers took blood samples from patients at the acute stage of their infection, and analysed which genes were activated or deactivated, Coin said.

“We were able to identify patterns of gene expression which could predict whether the child would develop organ failure within the next 24 hours, as well as whether the child had a bacterial or viral infection or a non-infectious inflammatory syndrome.”

Professor Luregn Schlapbach from UQ’s Child Health Research Centre said sepsis is best treated when recognised early, so the finding could help clinicians in the future.

“Diagnosing sepsis is often challenging because many paediatric illnesses can present the same,” Schlapbach said.

"Having precision markers that tell you whether a child is going to develop the condition is urgently needed.

“Currently, doctors give antibiotics, fluids and increase observation of any child if sepsis is suspected, but unfortunately that means there are children who receive unnecessary treatment.”

Schlapbach said more research was needed before the findings could help clinicians to act pre-emptively.

“Our next step will be to transfer what we have discovered to a point-of-care platform, which means we can potentially generate the results from a blood test within an hour,” he said.

The research was funded by the Australian Government Medical Research Future Fund Genomic Health Futures Mission, Children’s Hospital Foundation Queensland, Brisbane Diamantina Health Partners, Emergency Medicine Foundation, Gold Coast Hospital Foundation, Far North Queensland Foundation, Townsville Hospital and Health Services SERTA Grant, and Australian Infectious Diseases Research Centre.

Coin is also a Professor at the Doherty Institute at the University of Melbourne. The research paper was published in Lancet Child and Adolescent Health.

Image credit: iStock.com/Phynart Studio

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