WASHINGTON – In this special Sepsis Issue, AACC’s The Journal of Applied Laboratory Medicine highlights the cutting-edge clinical tests that laboratory medicine experts are developing to combat sepsis, a life-threatening condition that kills more people in the U.S. than heart attacks every year.

Sepsis develops when the immune system has an extreme reaction to an infection such as the flu, pneumonia, or even a urinary tract or skin infection. Every year, 1.7 million Americans get sepsis and about 270,000 die from it—and some data suggest that this death rate is climbing due to factors such as increasing antimicrobial resistance. The most effective way to combat sepsis is to catch and treat it as quickly as possible—the survival rate is relatively high for patients in the earliest stages of the condition, but within hours of onset septic shock can kick in, at which point the mortality rate rises to 40-70%. Physicians still struggle with identifying sepsis early, however, because many clinical conditions exhibit the same symptoms as sepsis in its initial stages.

The clinical laboratory plays an integral role in detecting sepsis, and advances in laboratory tests will be crucial to improving diagnosis of this condition and bringing the sepsis mortality rate down. This special issue of The Journal of Applied Laboratory Medicine features research on two such advancements: One study in the issue shows that a new test for an immune-system signaling receptor predicts risk of mortality for sepsis patients, which could enable physicians to treat patients at the highest risk of death more aggressively. A second study shows that a test for a protein central to sepsis onset could detect the development of sepsis before symptoms even manifest

This special issue also addresses another major hurdle to preventing the spread of sepsis, which is that physicians must often start treatment with broad-spectrum antibiotics before standard tests are able to identify the microorganism causing the infection. This swift action saves patient lives, but it also contributes to a vicious cycle: Broad-spectrum antibiotic use drives antimicrobial resistance, and more resistant microorganisms means more people getting sepsis. This special issue therefore takes an in-depth look at emerging tests that rapidly detect pathogens and could enable prompt treatment of sepsis patients with targeted antibiotics. The issue also spotlights how collaboration between clinical laboratory experts and the rest of the healthcare team is crucial to ensuring that these new tests are used effectively.

“Clinical definitions of sepsis, relevant treatment guidelines, and associated laboratory technologies are each evolving rapidly. This special issue focuses on the role of the laboratory in the diagnosis and management of sepsis and bloodstream infections,” wrote issue editors and sepsis experts Allison B. Chambliss, PhD; Susan Butler-Wu, PhD; and Jennifer Dien Bard, PhD; in the preamble to the special issue. “We believe that this issue illustrates the benefit of collaboration between clinical laboratorians of all types, clinicians, and pharmacists to foster early recognition and proper management of sepsis and bloodstream infections.”

About AACC

Dedicated to achieving better health through laboratory medicine, AACC brings together more than 50,000 clinical laboratory professionals, physicians, research scientists, and business leaders from around the world focused on clinical chemistry, molecular diagnostics, mass spectrometry, translational medicine, lab management, and other areas of progressing laboratory science. Since 1948, AACC has worked to advance the common interests of the field, providing programs that advance scientific collaboration, knowledge, expertise, and innovation. For more information, visit www.myadlm.org.

Launched by AACC in 2016, The Journal of Applied Laboratory Medicine is an international, peer-reviewed publication that showcases the applied research in clinical laboratory science that is driving innovation forward in healthcare.