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Independence Health System is Leading the Way to Quicker Sepsis Diagnosis and Treatment Therapies

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Independence Health System is Leading the Way to Quicker Sepsis Diagnosis and Treatment Therapies

Sepsis is a serious, life-threatening condition that occurs due to complications from other infections in the body, causing organ and tissue damage if left untreated.  Various infections can lead to sepsis, including bacterial, viral (influenza or COVID-19) and fungal.  Typically, those at the highest risk for developing sepsis include:

  • Adults 65 and older
  • Individuals with weakened immune systems
  • Individuals with chronic medical conditions
  • Individuals with a recent severe illness or hospitalization
  • Individuals who have had sepsis in the past
  • Children under the age of one

Although sepsis is not contagious, the infections that cause it can be.  The CDC reports that 1.7 million people in the United States develop sepsis, and 350,000 adults die from complications each year.  Common symptoms of sepsis infection include:

  • High heart rate or a weak pulse
  • Fever, shivering, or feeling very cold
  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Shortness of breath
  • Extreme pain or discomfort
  • Clammy or sweaty skin

Robert Patterson, MD, MPH, Director of Pathology at Butler Memorial Hospital, part of Independence Health System, is developing a faster, more efficient method to diagnose sepsis through the study of monocyte distribution width (MDW) biomarkers in a person’s blood and the utilization of rapid species identification tests, independent of blood culture. These two leading-edge laboratory technologies are developed by Beckman Coulter® and T2Biosystems®, respectively.  

In 2019, the Food and Drug Administration cleared MDW as a reportable parameter of infection and risk assessment for patients admitted to the emergency department developing sepsis.  MDW biomarkers, a hematological parameter proprietary to Beckman Coulter® analyzers, are helpful in the early detection of sepsis.  They are automatically calculated as part of a complete blood count (CBC) with differential testing, eliminating the need for clinicians to order additional testing.  

MDW biomarkers measure changes in a person’s blood cells that have the potential to lead to sepsis.  When an infection is present, MDW is sometimes elevated. MDW can also be elevated for noninfectious reasons, including pregnancy, so additional indicators in the blood were identified to identify sepsis infections more accurately.  Through collaboration with colleagues in the health system and technological innovation, the team developed an algorithm to capture those at the highest risk of a sepsis infection, using carefully selected parameters.

When the MDW is reported as elevated on the Beckman Coulter® analyzer, T2 Biosystems test panels (T2Bacteria® & T2Candida®) are ordered to identify bacteria or fungus from a whole blood sample. T2 Biosystems panels are the first and only FDA-cleared testing panels to detect bloodstream infections early and identify sepsis-causing pathogens.  What typically takes 36 hours or more to identify through standard-of-care blood culture testing, the T2 panels identify in 3-5 hours, speeding up diagnosis and the administration of species-targeted antimicrobials.  

Over ten months, the time to diagnosis and the administration of appropriate treatment was shorter.  The advanced clinical research of Dr. Patterson’s team and the innovative technologies of Beckman Coulter® and T2 Biosystems®, used in collaboration, have helped diagnose individuals most susceptible to developing a severe sepsis complication.  Dr. Patterson recently shared his findings at the Executive War College and American Society of Microbiology (ASM Microbe) annual conferences in the spring of 2023.  The clinical results are a game changer in diagnosing and treating patients with sepsis.  

Butler Memorial installed Beckman Coulter’s DxH 900 hematology analyzer in the spring of 2020 to improve laboratory efficiency and reduce the number of manual steps required to process a sample.  In addition, the T2 Biosystems T2Dx® Instrument was installed in October of 2022.