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Researchers Hone in on Genes Linked to Serious Blood Infection

Study findings could lead to new test to detect sepsis earlier

WEDNESDAY, May 13, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- It might be possible to develop a blood test that would diagnose severe blood infections (sepsis) at an earlier stage than can be done currently, new research suggests.

Stanford University researchers have identified a pattern of gene activity associated specifically with sepsis.

Sepsis is the leading cause of hospital deaths in the United States, according to the researchers. The condition is associated with the early deaths of at least 750,000 Americans a year and costs the health care system more than $24 billion annually.

"It's critical for clinicians to diagnose sepsis accurately and quickly, because the risk of death from this condition increases with every passing hour it goes untreated," study senior author Purvesh Khatri, an assistant professor of biomedical informatics research, said in a university news release.

However, it can be difficult to distinguish sepsis from another condition called sterile inflammation.

"We think we've got the makings of a diagnostic blood test that will allow clinicians to distinguish between these two [conditions]," Khatri said.

He and his colleagues analyzed more than 2,900 blood samples from nearly 1,600 patients and found that 11 genes showed a slight increase in activity two to five days before a clinical diagnosis of sepsis could be made.

That means a blood test to detect increased activity in these genes could lead to an earlier diagnosis than with current methods and improve patients' chances of survival.

The study was published May 13 in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about sepsis.

SOURCE: Stanford University, news release, May 13, 2015
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