A Signpost for Sepsis
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Medicine for septicemiaNorbert: Dave, do you know what's responsible for half of all hospital deaths in America?

Dave: I don't know... heart failure?

Norbert: No, it's sepsis!

Dave: Ah... of course! Sepsis is when the body's immune system overreacts to an infection and begins attacking its own organs and tissues. But it's possible scientists have identified the biomarker that can predict who's at risk of dying from sepsis so doctors can intervene earlier.

Sepsis can be triggered by any kind of an infection, including viruses, bacteria, fungi and parasites. Very early in sepsis, the immune system produces large amounts of various proteins to ramp up the immune response. One is a powerful process called pyroptosis which destroys infected cells. But it also fuels the development of sepsis.

When scientists looked for genetic variations that made people more susceptible to pyroptosis, they identified a single change in DNA that creates a molecule called methylthioadenosine or MTA. Scientists hypothesized that MTA levels can predict who would die of sepsis, and changing its levels can increase survival.

Early in infections, its level in the blood goes up, but falls in tissues. But if an infection isn't dealt with, more MTA is released, which indicates an out of control immune system. Indeed, in 62 patients, the chances of dying from sepsis were increased over seven times when MTA levels are doubled. But in their experiments with mice, those treated with MTA before a bacterial infection lived longer. The key is to find out when to raise and lower MTA levels during sepsis to improve survival.

For more information…

Researchers Identify Biomarker That Predicts Death in Sepsis Patients
Runaway immune system response to infection has distinct markers

Human genetic and metabolite variation reveals that methylthioadenosine is a prognostic biomarker and an inflammatory regulator in sepsis
Sepsis is a deleterious inflammatory response to infection with high mortality. Reliable sepsis biomarkers could improve diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment. Integration of human genetics, patient metabolite and cytokine measurements, and testing in a mouse model demonstrate that the methionine salvage pathway is a regulator of sepsis that can accurately predict prognosis in patients...

Sepsis is the body's extreme response to an infection. It is life-threatening and without timely treatment can rapidly cause tissue damage, organ failure, and death...