A recent study has revealed that individuals living in poverty and those with preexisting health conditions face a significantly higher risk of death from sepsis, one of the leading causes of death in the UK.
Sepsis, also known as blood poisoning, is a serious and potentially deadly condition caused by the body’s response to an infection. This response can result in damage to the body’s tissues and important organs. In Britain, it is responsible for approximately 48,000 deaths per year.
A study conducted by the University of Manchester has revealed the increased likelihood of certain groups dying from the condition compared to the overall population.
A study of 248,767 instances of sepsis not related to Covid in England from January 2019 to June 2022 revealed that individuals from the most disadvantaged backgrounds have twice the likelihood of succumbing to it within 30 days.
The results, which were reported in the eClinicalMedicine journal, also demonstrate that:
Individuals with cognitive impairments have a significantly higher risk of developing sepsis, as they are nearly four times more susceptible to the condition.
Individuals with liver disease are at a significantly higher risk, approximately three times greater.
Individuals diagnosed with stage 5 chronic kidney disease have a significantly higher risk of developing the condition compared to those without the disease.
According to Prof Tjeerd van Staa and Xiaomin Zhong’s team, individuals with cancer, brain disease, or weakened immune systems are more susceptible to risk. This also applies to those who have undergone multiple rounds of antibiotics.
This research reveals that low socioeconomic status, having other health conditions, and having learning disabilities are linked to a higher likelihood of acquiring sepsis unrelated to Covid and a higher risk of dying within 30 days in England.
According to the authors, their results could assist healthcare providers around the world in identifying and treating sepsis in patients more quickly. It can be challenging for clinical staff to recognize sepsis due to its symptoms, which may overlap with those of various other diseases, such as a rash, discolored skin, and difficulty speaking clearly.
Dr Ron Daniels, the founder and joint chief executive of the UK Sepsis Trust, said: “As an intensive care doctor in inner-city Birmingham, I frequently see patients from underrepresented communities presenting late with sepsis.
This significant research serves as a reminder that both socioeconomic status and underlying health conditions, which are frequently connected and also tied to ethnicity, play a role in determining the unequal risk of developing sepsis unrelated to Covid.
The NHS ombudsman recently reported that avoidable deaths were occurring due to recurring “serious failings” in the health service’s management of sepsis and its failure to learn from past mistakes.
According to Rob Behrens, the ombudsman, common problems that were repeated included a lack of prompt diagnosis and treatment for sepsis, inadequate communication and documentation, and instances where follow-up care was not provided. He also stated that the NHS should have a greater awareness of sepsis.
Zhong stated that it is unclear why being exposed to multiple courses of antibiotics can increase a patient’s risk of developing sepsis.
It is reasonable to assume that antibiotics may harm the helpful bacteria in the gut, which could make a person more vulnerable to infection. This could also be attributed to differences in immune system strength or other existing health conditions.
A representative from the Department of Health and Social Care expressed support for additional research to explore the correlation between health disparities and the potential for infection, antimicrobial resistance, and sepsis.
Efforts are currently being made to revise the recommendations for identifying and managing sepsis, in order to guarantee prompt delivery of the most effective treatment. Additionally, steps are being taken to incorporate sepsis protocols into healthcare training for healthcare professionals.