Aussie breakthrough in sepsis research

New Australian research identifies the cause of one of the dangerous symptoms of sepsis.
New Australian research identifies the cause of one of the dangerous symptoms of sepsis.

Australian scientists have discovered a new cause for a life-threatening characteristic of septicaemia which can lead to multiple organ failure.

Commonly referred to as blood poisoning, septicaemia, or sepsis, is a serious blood infection caused by bacteria.

Scientists at the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute, led by Professor Roland Stocker, have found a new cause of a sudden drop of blood pressure, which is one of the symptoms of sepsis.

The low blood pressure in septic patients means the "amount of blood the heart can transport to the peripheral organs is decreased," Prof Stocker told AAP.

The peripheral organs then don't get enough oxygen and nutrients, and "this can result in multiple organ failure and that's then what people die from," he said.

The research found that a previously unknown molecule, called cis-WOOH, is the substance which profoundly dilates blood vessels and creates this low blood pressure.

Prof Stocker said this discovery paves the way for scientists to explore a potential treatment to stall the mortality rates of people who contract sepsis, which stands at about one in every four cases.

The finding could possibly be used to develop treatments for other inflammatory conditions, including types of heart disease, neurological disorders such as multiple sclerosis, and perhaps inflammatory components of cancer, he said.

The project involved collaborations with scientists around Australia as well as universities in Japan, China, Brazil and England.

The findings will appear in print in Nature journal on Thursday.

Australian Associated Press