Four Supertrends Experts Share Their Insights on Sepsis
On 13 September 2021, World Sepsis Day will be observed for the tenth time. Sepsis, a disorder that is caused by infections, can lead to limb amputations and deaths in a matter of days. The condition kills at least 11 million people every year globally. However, the condition is still not well known, with only from 7 to 50 percent of respondents being familiar with the term, and many having an incorrect understanding of the condition. Supertrends asked four experts to comment on current sepsis-related trends and challenges.
COVID-19 and viral sepsis
Traditionally, bacterial infections had been regarded as a leading cause of sepsis. The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed viral sepsis to be one of the characteristics of modern-day sepsis syndrome. Studies found that sepsis was the most frequently observed complication of COVID-19. The elevation of cytokine levels, an indicator of dysregulated immune response to the virus infection, was linked to viral sepsis and critically ill COVID-19 patients.
Dr. Masab Moumneh, who has been an ICU physician in Abu Dhabi for the past ten years, still cannot believe how many lives COVID-19 took during the peak days of the pandemic. He told Supertrends that almost all COVID-19 patients are killed by the dysregulated immune response rather than the virus itself.
“I have never seen anything as bad as this. Patients typically develop a high fever, their Interleukin 6 (a type of cytokine) is high. If we can get them to pass the two-week mark, they will survive.”
– Masab Moumneh, MD, ICU physician, and Supertrends expert
Sepsis in contemporary healthcare
Dr. Mads Koch Hansen, an intensive care specialist and hospital administrator, believes that we are facing a greater challenge from sepsis today due to shortened post-surgery hospital stay, emerging viral infections, antibiotic resistance crisis, and an aging population.
“Today, there are more elderly patients and more patients with chronic conditions. Another factor we should pay attention to is that we do more surgeries on elderly people, with fewer post-surgery staying days in the hospital. This means we will not be able to detect these patients early if they develop sepsis.”
– Mads Koch Hansen, MD, intensive care specialist, hospital administrator, and Supertrends expert
Currently, there is still no drug specifically targeting sepsis. Hansen felt that doctor’s hands were quite tied when it came to treating sepsis patients.
A promising new approach
Aquaporin (AQP) is a channel protein found in plants, animals, and humans. The discovery of aquaporin won Dr. Peter Agre a Nobel Prize in 2013. However, despite having a profound physiological impact, aquaporin has not been transformed into practical applications. Dr. Michael Rutzler, CEO and founder of start-up Apoglyx, told Supertrends that aquaporin could be a potential treatment for sepsis.
“We found strong evidence that the inhibition of AQP9 demonstrated a protective effect from sepsis in rodent models, especially on heart function. We are hoping to get similar results in humans.”
– Michael Rutzler, CEO and founder of Apoglyx, Supertrends expert
Rutzler has been collaborating with Professor Giuseppe Calamita of Bari University in Italy. Calamina’s team was the first in the world to study aquaporin’s involvement in sepsis in a living animal model.
“We got a very promising result with more than 25 percent of the mice surviving sepsis […] The results proved that modulated AQP might offer a new approach for sepsis management.”
– Giuseppe Calamina, professor in biosciences and Supertrends expert
A new era for sepsis management
Advances in the field of biology and computer science are changing the way we prevent, diagnose, and treat diseases. Innovations in medicine mean we can understand and manage many health issues better than before.
Aquaporin-based therapy or other innovative approaches one day will help clinicians to overcome the challenge of sepsis. Our report on Supertrends in Aquaporin and Sepsis describes how the future of aquaporin could be intertwined with the future management of sepsis.