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YOUR HEALTH: Fighting a killer in the hospital

Every year more than one million Americans develop life-threatening sepsis.

SAN DIEGO — Each year, almost two million Americans develop sepsis

According to the CDC, 270,000 will die as a result. 

"Sepsis is one of the most dangerous syndromes known in medicine," said Dr. Victor Nizet, University of California San Diego School of Medicine professor.

One in three patients who die in a hospital also has sepsis.

Sepsis is caused by bacterial infections but it can also be caused by viral infections like COVID-19.

"It is an uncontrolled inflammatory response to a severe bacterial infection that is spreading through your body," Nizet said.

Sepsis is one of the most costly of all diseases, recently totaling more than $24 billion in hospital expenses, or 13% of total U.S. hospital costs.

Usually treated with antibiotics, there's no single approved drug specifically targeting sepsis.

But, researchers at UC-San Diego have found two different drugs, already FDA approved, that may help the patient's own body fight staph sepsis.

Not by using antibiotics, but by maintaining a patient's platelet count.

"Platelets in the blood were able to kill staph better than the white blood cells," Nizet said.

The two repurposed drugs used to maintain platelets are Brilinta, a blood thinner commonly prescribed to prevent heart attack recurrence, and Tamiflu used to treat the flu.

Sixty percent of mice treated with both drugs survived 10 days following infection compared to 20% of untreated mice. 

Now researchers hope these same results will transfer to people.

"Looking for new ideas in which we try to assist in the clearance of infection by boosting the immune system," Nizet said.

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at jim.mertens@wqad.com or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com.

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