A new technique may be able to cut sepsis diagnosis from five days to just five hours.
Sepsis is a deadly disease that kills more than a quarter of those affected by it. Characterised by an inflammatory response to infection, sepsis can cause organ malfunction and affects over 100,000 people in the UK alone, with 36,800 deaths annually. Incidences have been increasing by an annual rate of between eight and thirteen percent over the last decade.
Traditionally, doctors have treated patients with antibiotics, administered immediately after exhibiting symptoms. Once symptoms are under control, doctors then try to figure out the specific virus responsible for the infection by performing a blood culture. This technique can take several days and, by the time the blood culture is taken, can sometimes be too late, particularly in patients with poor or compromised immune systems.
A new technique seeks to cut this time from days to hours. T2 Biosystems, which develops diagnostic equipment in the US, has built a new system for diagnosing sepsis that is caused by a fungus called candida. T2, unlike traditional methods, is similar to magnetic resonance imaging, and would only take five hours.
The detector works by measuring changes in the magnetic properties of the water molecules in a sample of blood. Magnetic nanoparticles are mixed with the sample — if a fungus is present, the particles will attach to it, thus changing the magnetic properties of the blood. By applying magnetic pulses to the sample the device is able to determine whether or not the virus is present.
Trials have shown that the method is able to detect pathogens in 96 percent of cases, compared to just 60 percent in the blood culture tests. Six hospitals across the US have already started using the technology.