In his opinion piece for STAT, McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine affiliated faculty member Derek Angus, MD, MPH, Chair of the Department of Critical Care Medicine of both the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and the UPMC Healthcare System, states:
Sepsis is the most expensive and deadliest condition we are battling in our hospitals. But when did you last see headlines trumpeting a blockbuster new sepsis drug? You haven’t — and you won’t — until we make a serious commitment to fight the oldest disease of all.
Sepsis is an infection that kills as many Americans each year — about 250,000 — as stroke and Alzheimer’s combined. Nearly 1.5 million Americans are hospitalized for sepsis each year, and it accounts for 1 in 3 deaths that occur in hospitals.
Sepsis is the syndrome of an acute, life-threatening failure of the body’s vital organs that develops as the body tries to fight off infection. It can start with something simple: an infected cut, the flu, a urinary tract infection, or many other seemingly benign afflictions. It is a case of friendly fire, where the body’s own immune system and other defense mechanisms respond clumsily to the infection, accidentally injuring or interfering with vital organs.
The onset of sepsis is pernicious. An individual can look relatively well until it is too late to intervene and stop the organ-destroying cascade of an overreactive immune system.
Dr. Angus’ proposed plan to solve sepsis includes meeting these needs:
- better methods to identify sepsis early and accurately
- better treatments and strategies to care for patients, not just newer antibiotics
- better ways to help and treat sepsis survivors
Many of the tools that might be useful to truly reduce sepsis exist but are scattered across hospital and research institutions. Today, there is no coordinated effort to bring together researchers, industry, hospitals, and patients. Sepsis is an old term. It needs a new examination.
At the University, Dr. Angus holds the rank of Distinguished Professor and the Mitchell P. Fink Endowed Chair in Critical Care Medicine with secondary appointments in Medicine, Health Policy and Management, and Clinical and Translational Science and he directs the CRISMA (Clinical Research, Investigation, and Systems Modeling of Acute Illnesses) Center. He also co-directs the UPMC ICU Service Center, responsible for the provision of ICU services across the 20-plus hospital system.