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Sepsis research to aid quicker diagnosis for children

13 September 2018

An important study at The Townsville Hospital examining acutely ill children presenting to the hospital with suspected sepsis is one of 19 projects to receive a share of more than $600,000 in research funding from the Townsville Hospital and Health Service.

Staff specialist and Townsville Hospital emergency department lead researcher Dr Hannah Makrides said the research was in partnership with Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital and explored how to diagnose the life-threatening illness more quickly.

“Sepsis happens when the body develops an overwhelming and life- threatening response to an infection to the point it begins to damage its own tissue “she said.

“Suspected sepsis is one of the most common reasons children present to the emergency department and the challenge is to decipher which children have or will develop sepsis and to identify and appropriately treat the cause.

“Sepsis can be caused by bacterial or viral infections and it can be very difficult to differentiate the two.

“The distinction is important because antibiotic therapy is the corner-stone of the treatment of bacterial infections, however it can be harmful in those with viral illnesses.

“Early bacterial sepsis can be hard to identify, and in children it can be even more challenging.

Symptoms include fever, lethargy and loss of appetite but as these features are common in many other common childhood illnesses. This research aims to improve diagnostics to quickly identify bacterial sepsis so that appropriate time critical treatment can begin.”

Hannah said the research would use advanced genomics-based infection diagnostics on blood samples taken from unwell children.

“The test basically looks at how a child’s immune system responds to an infection to determine if it they are unwell due to a virus or bacteria. We also hope to be able to identify those children who are at risk of severe sepsis,” she said.

“It’s great to work together on research that will improve health outcomes for the youngest members of our community.”

Townsville Hospital and Health Board Chair Tony Mooney said Dr Makrides research was one of many innovative patient-focussed studies.

“Research is an integral part on continuous health care improvement and is vital to developing better treatments and improved clinical pathways,” he said.

“This is why the Board is proud to have committed $600,000 dollars to Study Education Research Trust Account funding to enable our clinicians to pursue research that can make a significant difference to our health service community.

“Our organisational vision is ‘To be a leader in health care, research and education for regional Australia’ and it is encouraging to see so many clinicians passionate about pursuing this agenda with their projects.”

Last updated: 23 October 2018