Researchers have found which groups of people are more likely to die from sepsis.
This is a life-threatening condition that occurs when the body overreacts to an infection and starts attacking its own tissues and organs.
Analysis of UK National Health Service (NHS) data shows that people with certain medical conditions and deprived people have a higher risk of developing sepsis, and also, a higher risk of death.
People who have a “history of extensive antibiotic exposure” are also at higher risk, as are people with learning disabilities, experts found.
The new study, led by a team at the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom, saw experts look at data on 224,000 cases of sepsis in England between January 2019 to June 2022.
These cases were compared to more than 1.3 million people who did not have sepsis.
The researchers used a standardised measure of socioeconomic deprivation, which uses information on income, employment, crime rate, living environment and education.
They found that people from the most deprived communities were 80% more likely to develop sepsis, compared to people from the least deprived.
After making adjustments for other factors, they found that people with a learning disability were at least three times more likely to be diagnosed with sepsis, compared to people without.
People with chronic liver disease had a three-fold increased risk of developing sepsis, while those with chronic kidney disease had an increased risk that was two to six times higher than the general population, depending on the stage of their disease.
Patients with cancer, neurological disease, diabetes and immunosuppressive conditions were also at increased risk, as were those who were underweight or obese.
Smokers also appeared to be at higher risk, according to the study, which has been published in the journal eClinicalMedicine.
In addition, the researchers reported that people of South Asian descent appeared to have a higher incidence of sepsis.
The academics also looked at deaths within 30 days of a sepsis diagnosis.
They found that deaths were highest among those aged in their 80s and people of white ethnicity.
But after conducting statistical analysis on the figures, they found that people from deprived backgrounds, along with patients with chronic kidney disease and chronic liver disease were the groups who had an increased risk of dying within 30 days.
“This study shows socioeconomic deprivation, comorbidity and learning disabilities are associated with an increased risk of developing non-Covid-19-related sepsis and 30-day mortality in England,” said study co-author Professor Dr Tjeerd van Staa from the University of Manchester.
“This research underscores the urgent need for sepsis risk prediction models to account for chronic disease status, deprivation status and learning disabilities, along with infection severity,” he added.
Study co-author and UK Health Security Agency antimicrobial resistance and sepsis lead Dr Colin Brown added that while severe infections and sepsis can impact anyone, the data highlighted the complex interplay between socioeconomic status, underlying medical conditions and sepsis risk.
“Our research has found that some people were more likely to die from sepsis compared to others, including those in the lowest socioeconomic groups, and that those who need to take antibiotics more regularly are also at greater risk,” he said.
“Tackling inequalities is a core part of our public health approach and a deeper understanding of who serious bacterial infections affect will help us best target interventions to address them.”
Sepsis is deemed to be a medical emergency, but it can be hard to spot.
In adults, sepsis may feel like flu, gastroenteritis or a chest infection at first.
Early symptoms include fever, chills and shivering, a fast heartbeat, and quick breathing.
Symptoms of sepsis or septic shock include feeling dizzy or faint; confusion or disorientation; nausea and vomiting; diarrhoea; and cold, clammy and pale or mottled skin.
Any child who is breathing very fast; has a fit; or looks mottled, bluish or pale; or has a rash that does not fade when you press it, may have sepsis.
And a baby or child under five years old who is not feeding, vomiting repeatedly, or has not had a wee or wet nappy for 12 hours, may have sepsis. – By Ella Pickover/PA Media/dpa