UMass immunology expert: Sepsis remains very common, costly

“The case rate for sepsis is increasing,” says Dr. Douglas Golenbock, Chief of the Infectious Diseases and Immunology Division of the University of Massachusetts (UMass) Medical School, as he compares incidence data from various sources during his presentation at the Laboratory Research Division (LRD) Brown Bag session on January 11, 2019 at the RITM Auditorium.

Sepsis is a life-threatening condition that arises when the body’s response to an infection injures its own tissues and organs. According to the World Health Organization, sepsis affects more than 30 million people worldwide every year, potentially leading to six million deaths.

“Sepsis is a full body disease because it involves every organs like kidney, heart, brain, lungs, gastrointestinal tract, and immune system,” emphasized Dr. Golenbock.

Talking to over 135 RITM researchers and doctors, Dr. Golenbock presented relevant information on gram-negative bacterial sepsis, a common cause of shock and death. He explained that lipopolysaccharide or LPS is a major constituent of the gram-negative bacterial outer membrane and is thought to be responsible for gram-negative sepsis.

Dr. Golenblock’s lecture also showcased a variety of sepsis cases, highlighting some common sense warnings about diagnosing sepsis, which includes possibility of the absence of fever in elderly, chronically ill, and malnourished individuals; absence of tachycardia on individuals on beta-blockers; and possibility of a changing and normal range of white blood cell at the time of checking the patients.

Dr. Golenbock reminds physicians that antimicrobial therapy for sepsis works and should be initiated as soon as possible.

“The longer you delay the administration of antibiotics, the higher the risk for the sepsis to get worse,” emphasized Dr. Golenbock. Antibiotics may also be toxic to patients so it is crucial to choose antibiotics wisely, not attempting to “cover everything”.

Dr. Kenneth Rock, Chair of Department of Pathology UMass Medical School, also presented principles and mechanisms of antigen – an important aspect in immunology and vaccine production.

Organized by LRD, Dr. Golenbock and Dr. Rock’s joint lecture is the first of a series of brown bag sessions for the year. The LRD Brown Bag conference aims to encourage research communication and to promote knowledge-sharing among RITM researchers.

by JA Quinto, Communication and Engagement Office