US researchers, including an Indian-origin professor at California's Standford University have identified a set of 11 genes that could lead to faster and more accurate diagnoses of patients with sepsis and separate them from those with other forms of inflammation.
Sepsis is a whole-body inflammation syndrome set off when the immune system wildly overreacts to the presence of infectious pathogens. It is the leading cause of hospital deaths in the US, accounting for nearly half of the total number, and is tied to the early deaths of at least 750,000 Americans each year.
"It's critical for clinicians to diagnose sepsis accurately and quickly, because the risk of death from this condition increases with every passing hour it goes untreated," Xinhua Purvesh Khatri, assistant professor of medicine at the Center for Biomedical Informatics Research, said.
In practice, distinguishing sepsis from sterile inflammation, which is not caused by infection, is very difficult.
"Right now, the only diagnostics that can help do this are too slow or too inaccurate, or both," Khatri said.
In their study, Khatri and his colleagues looked at more than 2,900 blood samples from nearly 1,600 patients and found a set of 11 genes that showed a slight jump in activity two to five days before patients were diagnosed with sepsis.
"That means a blood test based on these genes could lead to an earlier diagnosis than with current approaches, which is key considering the rapid rate at which sepsis mortality rises once it gets a foothold," Khatri said.
They also found the gene-activation signature showed a sepsis-detecting accuracy surpassing that of methods now in use.
The findings were published in the US journal Science Translational Medicine
Khatri is a graduate of B.V.M. Engineering College in India's Gujarat state.