Nearly one-third of all patients in UK intensive care units (ICUs) have been admitted because of sepsis. This dangerous condition can affect patients of all ages and cause even previously healthy individuals to rapidly become seriously ill. Sepsis can be difficult to diagnose because symptoms overlap with those seen in other diseases.
Sepsis is a life-threatening condition that arises when the body’s immune response to an infection (e.g. pneumonia or a urinary tract infection) is dysregulated in a way which causes damage to the the body’s organs (eg lungs, kidneys). Although we can treat the underlying infection with antibiotics and support failing organs (e.g. machines which filter the bloods in kidney failure), we have no treatments which can specifically tackle the harmful immune response.
Over 2,300 patients have joined the Genomic Advances in Sepsis (GAinS) study since 2005. Patients admitted to intensive care units across the UK with sepsis caused by pneumonia or abdominal infection are eligible to participate, although we are only recruiting patients admitted to one of four locations in Oxford, Reading, London and Leicester at the moment. It is one of the largest studies in the world looking at how knowledge of the structure and function of our genes can be used to inform our understanding of sepsis and, in the longer term lead to the development of new, effective treatments. Thanks to the generosity of the many patients who have participated in this study we have already made a number of important discoveries that have been reported in the scientific literature Publications.
If you would like more information about sepsis, we recommend the UK Sepsis Trust which has excellent resources about the condition and also provides support for patients and relatives, including a 24-hour helpline.
If you or your relative is currently an inpatient with sepsis on the intensive care unit at one of our five recruiting sites, the clinical team and research nurses can provide you with further information about the GAinS study.