Sepsis is a potentially life-threatening medical condition that occurs when the body’s response to an infection becomes overwhelming and harmful. It is characterized by a systemic inflammatory response triggered by the body’s immune system to fight off the infection. Instead of only targeting the infectious agent, the body’s immune response affects its tissues and organs. If left untreated, it can progress to severe sepsis or septic shock, where the body’s organs begin to fail, and the patient’s condition becomes critical1.
Although sepsis can be caused by various types of infections, such as bacterial, viral, fungal, or parasitic, bacterial infection remains the most common cause. The common sources of infection leading to sepsis are respiratory infections at 47% (e.g. pneumonia), abdominal infections at 23% (e.g. appendicitis), urinary tract infections at 8%, skin and tissue infections and meningitis1,2.
The pathophysiology of sepsis is a complex process that involves the body’s overwhelming and dysregulated response to an infection. It starts with an infection, triggering an immune response and excessive inflammation which affects blood vessels, causing leakages and coagulation abnormalities. Organ dysfunction can result from reduced blood flow, leading to multiple organ dysfunction syndrome (MODS). In severe cases, sepsis can progress to septic shock, a life-threatening condition with low blood pressure and inadequate oxygen delivery3.
Sepsis imposes a significant economic burden on healthcare systems, patients, and society. For example, in the USA alone, sepsis costs more than $24 billion annually, or around $18,244 per hospitalization4,5.
The costs associated with sepsis are considerable and vary greatly from one country to another, as they are associated with hospitalization costs, stays in intensive care units, medical treatments, and long-term care.
1. What Is Sepsis? World Sepsis Day – September 13.
2. Stearns-Kurosawa, D. J., Osuchowski, M. F., Valentine, C., Kurosawa, S. & Remick, D. G. The Pathogenesis of Sepsis. Annu. Rev. Pathol. Mech. Dis. 6, 19–48 (2011).
3. Jarczak, D., Kluge, S. & Nierhaus, A. Sepsis—Pathophysiology and Therapeutic Concepts. Front. Med. 8, (2021).
4. Rudd, K. E. et al. Global, regional, and national sepsis incidence and mortality, 1990–2017: analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study. The Lancet 395, 200–211 (2020).
5. Paoli, C. J., Reynolds, M. A., Sinha, M., Gitlin, M. & Crouser, E. Epidemiology and Costs of Sepsis in the United States—An Analysis Based on Timing of Diagnosis and Severity Level*. Crit. Care Med. 46, 1889 (2018).