Detecting sepsis

A patient is showing signs of whole-body inflammation. If it’s bacterial sepsis, the patient needs antibiotics, or he could die within hours. If it’s sterile inflammation, antibiotics could be counterproductive, opening the door to pathogens such as Clostridium difficile.

“We think we’ve got the makings of a diagnostic blood test that will allow clinicians to distinguish between these two types of inflammation,” says Purvesh Khatri, PhD, assistant professor of biomedical informatics research.

Through a meta-analysis of 27 gene-expression data sets, he and Stanford colleagues found 11 genes that activate in response to sepsis, but not sterile inflammation. Postdoctoral scholar and surgical resident Timothy Sweeney, MD, PhD, is the lead author and Khatri is the senior author of the study, published in May 2015 in Science Translational Medicine.