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The Little-Known Disease Killing 37,000 Brits Every Year

Thursday 21st August 2014

Thousands of patients are dying from sepsis because of a lack of effective antibiotics.


Every year, 37,000 people are killed by infections caused by sepsis every week - more than lung cancer and more than breast and bowel cancer combined.

Professor Mark Bellamy, the President of the Intensive Care Society, told LBC: "Sepsis is when you get an infection which gets worse and worse until it takes hold and then the body's immune system fighting back releases a whole load of toxins and mediators into the blood, so you end up with what we used to call blood poisoning.

"It doesn't matter where the original infection starts. It could be a chest infection, it could be a urinary tract infection. It's the blood poisoning effect that follows on which is the real killer.

"Sepsis kills more people than lung cancer and more than breast and bowel cancer combined. It's a really big problem.

"A lot of the cases we see now are not related to anti-biotic resistance, but from slow recognition and a slow response to the problem.

Professor Bellamy believes that swift action could save 15,000 lives every year.

He added: "Part of the problem is that historically, we've not been very good at recognising that we've got a problem.

"The numbers are quite stark, but this is very under-recognised. We all know what a heart attack is, we all know what a stroke is and they are recognised early and dealt with while it's still possible to do that.

"We need to get into the same position with regard to sepsis.

"We feel if we did this consistently across the NHS, we could say around 15,000 lives per year."