Sepsis is an illness in which the body has a severe response to bacteria or other germs. It occurs when chemicals released into the bloodstream to fight the infection cause inflammation throughout the body. This inflammation can trigger a cascade of changes that can damage multiple organ systems, causing them to fail. If sepsis progresses to septic shock, blood pressure drops dramatically and this may lead to death. Sepsis is estimated to kill tens of millions of people worldwide annually. In the United States alone, approximately 215,000 die of sepsis each year – more than breast cancer, colon cancer, and HIV/AIDS combined. Despite these staggering losses, few specific therapeutic options are available to treat sepsis.
Sepsis kills more Americans than most cancers, strokes and heart attacks, yet few are aware of it. A process to expedite the treatment of patients with sepsis developed by the North Shore-LIJ Health System and the Institute for Healthcare Improvement has proven very successful. The protocols have reduced North Shore-LIJ’s sepsis mortality rates by 50 percent.
Feinstein Institute researchers are studying critical proteins implicated in sepsis and their role in several organ damage associated with sepsis, including lung and heart injury and anemia (decreased number of red blood cells), caused by severe sepsis. Their efforts are also focused on developing better treatments, including novel compounds derived from Chinese herbal therapies, to prevent progression of organ damage associated with sepsis.
In addition, the Feinstein Institute has taken a leading role in creating and supporting advocacy initiatives in the fight against sepsis, helping to create guidelines for the care of people with severe sepsis and helping to improve identification of signs of sepsis in emergency departments across the North Shore-LIJ Health System. Since the Feinstein Institute and health system mounted this aggressive sepsis prevention and early identification initiative, the sepsis mortality rate across the health system has been reduced by 45, which translates into thousands of saved lives.
Principal investigators conducting sepsis research include Yousef Al-Abed; Lionel Blanc; Nadeen Chahine; Rubin Cohen; Patricio T. Huerta; Jared M. Huston; Wei Li; Shu Fang Liu; Christine Metz; Edmund Miller; Raj K. Narayan; Kaie Ojamaa; Valentin A. Pavlov; Thomas L. Rothstein; Barbara Sherry; Pravin C. Singhal; Kevin J. Tracey; Haichao Wang and Ping Wang.