World Sepsis Day is coming up on September 13th. The day was initiated by the Global Sepsis Alliance in 2012 and aims to raise global awareness about sepsis, which every year causes many millions of deaths around the world. Bacterial infection is commonly the root cause of the condition, and prompt treatment with effective antibiotics is then essential for survival.
What is sepsis?
According to a consensus paper published by international experts in 2016, sepsis should be defined as “life-threatening organ dysfunction caused by a dysregulated host response to infection”.
The authors also support the following public description of sepsis, which was suggested in an article from 2011: “Sepsis is a life-threatening condition that arises when the body’s response to an infection injures its own tissues and organs”.
Thus, sepsis is not an infection in itself, but is rather an extreme bodily response. The medical consequences may include organ failure, shock and death. A variety of infections – bacterial, viral, parasitic and fungal – may lead to sepsis, including common conditions like pneumonia and urinary tract infections.
Treatment with broad-spectrum antibiotics are standard practice
Sepsis is an emergency that needs immediate attention and treatment. Since bacterial infections are a frequent cause of sepsis, prompt treatment with broad-spectrum antibiotics are standard practice. Treating broadly is a way to maximize the chances of treatment success and patient survival, as there generally is not enough time to await laboratory test results that can inform about, for example, antibiotic susceptibility. Keeping antibiotic resistance at a minimum is thus fundamentally important to this group of patients, as increasing resistance levels may have disastrous effects. Whether the underlying infection is caused by a susceptible or resistant bacterium may in fact be a question of life and death.
Sepsis may also afflict patients with COVID-19
Sepsis may also be caused by viral infections. As scientific data about COVID-19 have piled up, it has become evident that sepsis also impacts the mortality in the current pandemic. Since COVID-19 is a viral disease, it cannot be treated with antibiotics. Antibiotic could however be used to treat secondary bacterial infections or bacterial co-infections, although these appear to be quite rare in this group of patients. A recent review article found that bacterial co-infections occurred in 7% of hospitalized patients with COVID-19. Despite this low frequency, a majority of hospitalized COVID-19 patients receive antibiotic treatment, which is problematic from an antibiotic resistance perspective.
Sepsis: a common complication of cancer
People with weakened immune systems are especially at risk of sepsis. Patients treated for cancer, and particularly those treated for blood cancer, is one such group. The immune systems of these patients may be weakened because of the cancer itself, the cancer treatment or both. Notably, sepsis is one of the most common reasons for admission of cancer patients to intensive care units, and sepsis causes close to a tenth of all deaths in this patient group. If the prevalence of antibiotic resistance increases, we can expect this number to rise much more.
Antibiotic resistance and neonatal sepsis
Neonates are another vulnerable group that is over-represented among sepsis patients.
Approximately 3 million newborns suffer from neonatal sepsis every year with half a million of these cases resulting in death. Good hygiene practices in hospitals and in communities, such as ensuring access to clean water can prevent many of these deaths. In hospitals, ensuring there are strong infection, prevention and control (IPC) programs help prevent infections and bacterial transmission, but can also prevent the progression of these infections into sepsis. Alarming is that three out of every ten neonatal sepsis deaths are likely caused by resistant pathogens. Exacerbating the problem is the lack of new antibiotics in development to help treat neonatal sepsis due to resistant pathogens. There are approximately 37 antibiotics in development trials, yet only two are being studied for use in children. The Global Antibiotic Research and Development Partnership (GARDP) is working to bring new antibiotics to market, to make them available to everyone in the world and has a focus on children and neonatal sepsis.
Are you a pediatrician? Know one?
ReAct is conducting a survey on neonatal sepsis
ReAct is conducting a web-based survey to help understand globally the perception and experiences of physicians treating neonates with sepsis caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Particularly, it aims to understand their perception on the magnitude of the problem, and the awareness, policies or guidelines and challenges health professionals face when treating these patients. 30 questions in 10 minutes!
Last date to submit: 15 September. Please do share link to survey widely!
Questions? Contact email@example.com (request paper-based forms)
References and and further reading
More news and opinion from 2020
- Nurse Dorce, Indonesia: Treating small patients with much love and infection prevention – a success story
- ReAct highlights during World Antimicrobial Awareness week 2020
- ReAct Asia Pacific: Winners of 2020 photography competition
- WAAW ReAct Africa: Engaging civil society and students
- WAAW in Indonesia: Focus on One Health approach to AMR
- Innovate4Health’s 32 finalist teams: For social innovations to address emerging infectious diseases!
- ReAct Open Letter: 5 key points to One Health Global Leaders Group on Antimicrobial Resistance
- New ReAct Report: Treatment of newborn sepsis is threatened – effective antibiotics essential
- Upcoming ReAct Africa Conference: What is the status of the NAPs on AMR in the African region?
- Animal welfare and antibiotic resistance in food animals
- ReAct activities for World Antimicrobial Awareness Week 2020
- Dr. Honar Cherif: My patients can receive 5-10 courses of antibiotics during their cancer treatment
- New ReAct Report: Antibiotic resistance affects men and women differently
- ReAct Asia Pacific: Photo competition for students – health in focus
- 4 take aways from WHO’s first global report on sepsis
- Launch of global student design sprint – Innovate4Health
- World Sepsis Day – antibiotics essential in treatment of sepsis
- The new Pharmaceutical Strategy for Europe – an opportunity to put public interest first
- 4 key reflections on the recently launched WHO GLASS-report
- Key points from ReAct’s comments to the Independent Panel on Evidence
- ReAct Interview: From zoologist to community engagement on AMR
- ReAct Africa expands
- COVID-19 resolution – a missed opportunity to address global pandemic response more broadly
- What everyone needs to know about clinical research
- New ReAct Policy Brief: Successful cancer treatment relies on effective antibiotics
- Impact of COVID-19 on vaccine-preventable diseases and antibiotic resistance
- ReAct Africa and Africa CDC: COVID-19 webinars
- Antibiotic pollution: India scores a global first with effluent limits
- COVID-19 and AMR – what do we know so far?
- Learning from bedaquiline in South Africa – comprehensive health systems for new antibiotics
- ReAct Interview: How does antibiotics in food animal production end up in the environment?
- Key take aways from CSO workshop on AMR in Kenya
- New fact sheet: Effective antibiotics – essential for childrens’ survival
- Shortages and AMR – why should we care? 4 consequences of antibiotic shortages
- Our microbiome and noncommunicable diseases
- The 2020 AMR Benchmark Report – concerning findings with questionable framing
- 4 key reflections from engaging hospitals in India for antibiotic stewardship
- Teacher Gustavo Cedillo, Ecuador, teaches children about the bacterial world