Researchers at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) have debuted the pre-clinical trial of a new drug therapy for treating sepsis: InnovoSep.

The research was presented at the RCSI Research Day 2019 by Dr Sinéad Hurley, a postdoctoral fellow at the School of Pharmacy and Irish Centre for Vascular Biology.

Sepsis occurs when an infection gets into the bloodstream and the body’s defence system “spins out of control trying to fight the infection”, as principal research investigator Prof Steve Kerrigan explained. This immune response storm can result in multiple organ failure if left untreated.

Kerrigan continued: “There is only a short window of opportunity for treatment of sepsis with the early administration of antibiotics and fluid. However, in many cases antibiotics are not effective due to drug resistance or delays in identifying the type of bacteria that has caused the infection. Therefore, there is a need for a non-antibiotic therapy that can be used at all stages of infection against all bacterial causes of sepsis.”

According to Kerrigan, the team’s research demonstrates that InnovoSep can prevent sepsis progression early on and even treat the condition in its advanced stages. “The drug appears to act by preventing the bacteria from getting into the bloodstream from the site of infection by stabilising the blood vessels so that they cannot leak bacteria and infect the major organs.” Kerrigan noted that the results were “promising” and that they give hope for a new non-antibiotic treatment.

Sepsis, also known as blood poisoning, leads to almost 3,000 deaths a year in Ireland. Up to 60pc of all hospital deaths have a sepsis or infection diagnosis. Its clinical presentation is varied and non-specific, meaning it can go undiagnosed for extended periods.

The symptoms mimic that of a flu – high temperature, rapid heart rate, rapid breathing, pain and general malaise. As opposed to flu, sepsis symptoms will generally come on very rapidly. Sepsis can be caused by any type of infection, ranging from pneumonia and appendicitis to a simple cut or scrape.

Eva Short

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