Watch: Sepsis: People with chronic diseases or learning disabilities more likely to die from infection, scientists warn
Researchers have uncovered the groups of people who are more likely to contract and die from sepsis.
Analysis of NHS data suggests that people with certain medical conditions and those in deprived areas have a higher risk of developing sepsis and also have 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.
The new study, led by a team at the University of Manchester, 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.
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.
People with a learning disability were at least three times more likely to be diagnosed with sepsis compared to people without.
Those with chronic liver disease hand a three-fold increased risk of developing sepsis, while people with chronic kidney disease also had an increased risk.
Patients with cancer, neurological disease, diabetes and immunosuppressive conditions were also more likely to develop sepsis, alongside those who are underweight or obese and those who smoke.
Researchers also looked at deaths within 30 days of a sepsis diagnosis and 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 which had an increased risk of dying within 30 days.
What is sepsis?
According to the the UK Sepsis Trust sepsis is a serious complication of an infection, that without quick treatment can lead to multiple organ failure and death.
Latest figures estimate that there are about 250,000 cases every year in the UK, and more than 50,000 deaths, that’s around five people in the UK being killed by sepsis every hour.
Around a quarter of all sepsis survivors suffer permanent, life-changing after effects of the condition.
Celebrities who have experienced sepsis
Earlier this year Amy Dowden revealed the scary details behind her near-death experience after contracting sepsis, following her first round of chemotherapy.
The Strictly Come Dancing star, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in May, spent time in intensive care when she went into septic shock two days after the treatment.
Dowden was later told by paramedics that if she "had gone to bed that night, [she] might not have woken up the next morning".
Diversity star Jordan Banjo also revealed his newborn baby was rushed to hospital with suspected sepsis.
And last year, Kate Garraway’s husband Derek Draper was hospitalised twice with sepsis and placed in intensive care.
Sepsis risk factors
While the recent research has identified certain groups at risk of developing sepsis, there are some other risk factors for the illness.
You may be more at risk of developing sepsis if you have a weak immune system, if you’re already in hospital for a serious illness, if you’ve had recent surgery or an open wound, or if you have a long term health condition.
But though some people are more at risk of others it is important to note that sepsis can affect anyone, regardless of age (in fact, children can be more prone to it than adults), so it’s important to know the signs and symptoms so that you can get treatment as soon as possible.
According to the UK Sepsis Trust sepsis can initially look like flu, gastroenteritis or a chest infection.
Symptoms to look out for in adults according to the NHS:
a high temperature or a low body temperature
chills and shivering
a fast heartbeat
Call 999 or go to A&E if an adult or an older child has:
a rash that does not fade when you roll a glass over it
difficulty breathing, breathlessness or breathing very fast
blue, grey, pale or blotchy skin, lips or tongue
acting confused, slurred speech or not making sense
Call 999 or go to A&E if baby or young child has these sepsis symptoms:
skin looks mottled, bluish or pale
is very lethargic or difficult to wake
feels abnormally cold to touch
is breathing very fast
has a rash that does not fade when you press it
has a fit or convulsion
Treatment for sepsis
The NHS says that if sepsis is detected early enough and has not affected vital organs yet, it may be possible to treat the infection at home with antibiotics. But if the condition becomes severe or leads to sepsis shock, most will need to be admitted to hospital, with some requiring treatment in an intensive care unit (ICU).
People with severe sepsis often witness problems with their vital organs, which means they are likely to be very ill and the condition can be fatal. However, if sepsis is identified and treated quickly enough, in most cases patients will make a full recovery with no lasting problems.
Sepsis: Read more
Woman raising awareness of sepsis after what she presumed was a cold led to the condition (Yahoo Life UK, 5-min read)
Jason Watkins highlights key sepsis symptoms after daughter’s death – what is the condition? - Yahoo Life UK, 9-min read
A student was left fighting for her life after mistaking sepsis for ‘freshers' flu’ - Yahoo Life UK, 5-min read