Could a tiny chip have saved some of your favorite celebs?
A Catholic icon, a Muppet master, the world’s “Greatest” and countless others all succumbed to our nation’s third leading cause of death – sepsis. This “out of control” infection claimed the lives of Pope John Paul II, Jim Henson and Muhammad Ali, among others, and according to the Sepsis Alliance, will be responsible for the deaths of approximately 258,000 American this year.
But researchers at Texas Tech University may have uncovered a new way to fight this harrowing diagnosis, giving more patients a chance at recovery.
“Sepsis is a complex, life-threatening disease,” says Donna Schweitzer, APN, CCNS, CCRN, clinical nurse specialist for critical care at Advocate BroMenn Medical Center in Normal, Ill. “Early detection and treatment of the body’s response to an infection give the patients the best opportunity to recover and survive sepsis. We have made progress in the treatment, but early diagnosis remains a challenge.”
“Normally, when you detect sepsis, you do it through bacterial culture; that takes two days on the short end to 15 days on the long end,” said Dmitri Pappas, associate professor of chemistry at Texas Tech in a release. “Most people die of sepsis at two days. The detection currently is on the exact same time scale as mortality, so we’re trying to speed that up.”
Pappas and his team have created a tiny chip that performs fluid operations and diagnostic measurements. Using less than one drop of blood, the chip can confirm a sepsis diagnosis in only four hours.
The chip has been used with the help of stem cells up to this point. The next step is to test with human blood, a process that is said to start this month.
“There is still much unknown about why some bodies have an ‘over-reactive’ response to an infection,” says Schweitzer. “New approaches to diagnosing sepsis are being explored to gain a better understanding of how the body starts to overreact to an infection as well as how to detect it earlier.”
Whether or not this test could have saved the lives of those lost to sepsis, we will never know, but this type of innovation seems promising for tackling this silent killer.
About the Author
Lynn Hutley, health enews contributor, is coordinator of public affairs and marketing at Advocate BroMenn Medical Center and Advocate Eureka Hospital in central Illinois. Having grown up in a family-owned drug store, it is no surprise that Lynn has spent almost 18 years working in the health care industry. She has a degree in human resources management from Illinois State University and is always ready to tackle Trivia Night.