Home » Haematology » Heightened awareness of sepsis and faster treatment can save lives

Dr Ron Daniels

Executive Director, UK Sepsis Trust and Vice President, Global Sepsis Alliance

Dr Michael J Weinbren

Consultant Medical Microbiologist and Infection Control Doctor, NHS

Bruce Caldwell

Country Business Leader for Integrated Diagnostic Solutions, UK & Ireland, BD

Diagnostic tests are playing a critical role in the fight against sepsis and bloodstream infections and enabling clinicians to give patients the correct antibiotic treatments for recovery.

Reviews of blood culture practices, new technologies and antimicrobial stewardship are seen as critical steps to support the management of bloodstream infections, such as sepsis. Closer partnerships between industry, government, infection control experts, NHS policymakers and frontline staff are also important in the fight against such infections, according to experts in the field.

Sepsis is a life-threatening reaction to infection and happens when your immune system overreacts and starts to damage your body’s own tissues and organs. It affects 245,000 people and claims 48,000 lives a year in the UK. An NHS England (NHSE) review is currently looking to improve antibiotic prescribing and patient safety to improve outcomes from sepsis.

Hidden pandemic

Access to diagnostic tools and processes that ensure blood samples are correctly taken and tested within a designated timeframe is pivotal in tackling sepsis.

Bruce Caldwell, Country Business Leader for Integrated Diagnostic Solutions (UK and Ireland) for global medtech supplier BD (Becton, Dickinson and Company), reinforced the importance of industry–healthcare collaboration, explaining: “The correct use of accurate diagnostics enables bloodstream infections to be detected and allows microbiologists and physicians to determine the right antibiotic to use. Late intervention could result in poor patient outcomes at increased costs.”

The NHS conducts millions of blood-related tests, and this delivers rapid treatment for patients but also makes the best use of antimicrobials at a time of a ‘hidden pandemic’ of antimicrobial resistance.

Late intervention could result in poor patient outcomes at increased costs.

Bruce Caldwell

Early detection

BD continues to advance the world of health efficiently, safely, and sustainably by applying its heritage and broad portfolio to support healthcare systems across the UK and Ireland. The organisation manufactures a range of diagnostic and medical devices which are used daily within the NHS; these include BD Vacutainer® blood collection devices, BD FACSLyric™ flow cytometers and BD BACTEC™ blood culture instruments to diagnose and determine treatments.

Pathway review

Blood cultures expert and Consultant Medical Microbiologist Dr Michael Weinbren is working with the NHSE blood culture pathway review to deliver key performance indicators for better management of patients with sepsis.

Having optimised blood culture pathways at Chesterfield Royal Hospital, he was involved in the 2018–2019 survey, which found clear room for improvement in blood culture practices. Inconsistencies were found in the three phases of the pathway: collection and transportation of the specimen, laboratory processing and the post-analytical phase used to determine treatment.

Only 3% of UK sites analysed blood cultures within four hours of collection. In 40% of cases, it took more than 24 hours — enough time for some specimen organisms to die and affect readings — and 87% of sites took one set, rather than the recommended two sets, of blood.

With 20% of bloodstream infection or sepsis patients on ineffective antimicrobial therapy, Weinbren notes that speeding up testing would mean patients are quickly prescribed the correct narrow-spectrum antibiotics, improving antimicrobial stewardship.

Weinbren says failure to act and optimise the blood culture pathway will see a “vicious spiral” of increasing mortality from sepsis and fewer effective antibiotics by 2050.

Heightened awareness

Dr Ron Daniels, Executive Director of the UK Sepsis Trust and Vice President of Global Sepsis Alliance, believes thousands of deaths could be avoided with a heightened awareness of sepsis and rapid treatment.

“We must ensure people access healthcare at the right time, empower health professionals to act and better integrate diagnostics into clinical systems.

“Placing such technologies closer to the patient, rather than in centralised laboratories, will enable clinicians to respond rapidly and accurately, saving patients’ lives and slowing the spread of antimicrobial resistance,” he adds.

BD BACTEC Instruments and the BD FACSLyric flow cytometer are in-vitro diagnostic medical devices bearing a CE mark.

Next article