For Patients and Relatives

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 blood in kidney failure), we have no treatments which can specifically tackle the harmful immune response.

Over 2,400 patients joined the Genomic Advances in Sepsis (GAinS) study between 2005 and 2020 . Patients admitted to intensive care units across the UK with sepsis caused by pneumonia or abdominal infection were eligible to participate. GAinS 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 participated in this study we have already made a number of important discoveries that have been reported in the scientific literature Publications.

The original GAinS study has now closed to recruitment, but we continue to pursue our objective of improving sepsis outcomes through a greater understanding of the body’s response to infection. To this end we have embarked on a more detailed investigation of the immune response to sepsis, and the application of advances in our understanding of this dysregulated response to clinical practice (GAinS2/sepsis immunomics). Currently we are recruiting patients with sepsis from any cause admitted to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford. In this study we are also obtaining blood samples from convalescent sepsis survivors.

If you or your relative is currently an inpatient with sepsis at the John Radcliffe Hospital, the clinical team and research nurses would be pleased to provide you with further information about the GAinS2 study.

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.