People suffering from chronic liver and kidney diseases, as well as those with learning disabilities, are at greater risk of dying from sepsis, scientists have warned.
Patients with some of these conditions are three times more likely to die from an infection within a month, and those with kidney disease are up to six times more at risk, a new study of NHS data has found.
Being from a poor background can also lead to an 80% greater risk of developing sepsis and dying, the experts said.
The new research found those who have a “history of extensive antibiotic exposure” are also at higher risk.
Professor Tjeerd van Staa, from the University of Manchester who co-authored the study, said: “This study shows socioeconomic deprivation, comorbidity and learning disabilities are associated with an increased risk of developing non-COVID-19-related sepsis and 30-day mortality in England.
“This research underscores the urgent need for sepsis risk prediction models to account for chronic disease status, deprivation status, and learning disabilities, along with infection severity.
“There is an urgent need to improve the prevention of sepsis, including more precise targeting of antimicrobials to higher-risk patients.”
The study also looked at deaths within 30 days of a sepsis diagnosis and found these were highest among those aged in their 80s and people of white ethnicity.
While patients with cancer, neurological disease, diabetes and immunosuppressive conditions were at increased risk of catching sepsis, the researchers said.
Underweight or obese people also had higher odds of developing sepsis and smokers were also said to be at higher risk, according to the study.
After making adjustments for other factors, the researchers also found people with a learning disability were at least three times more likely to be diagnosed with sepsis compared to people without.
What is sepsis and what are the symptoms?
Sepsis is a life-threatening condition that occurs when the body overreacts to an infection and starts attacking its own tissues and organs.
When diagnosed, sepsis is deemed a medical emergency, but it can be hard to spot by doctors because in adults it can initially feel like flu, a chest infection or gastroenteritis.
But its severity is also often missed in children as the symptoms are attributed to other conditions.
These early symptoms include fever, chills and shivering, a fast heartbeat and quick breathing.
Symptoms of sepsis or septic shock include feeling dizzy or faint, nausea and vomiting, confusion or disorientation, diarrhoea and cold, clammy and pale or mottled skin.
Any child who is breathing very fast, has a fit or looks mottled, bluish, or pale, or has a rash that does not fade when you press it, may have sepsis.
Possible signs in children under five years old include not feeding, vomiting repeatedly, or not having a wee or wet nappy for 12 hours.
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Earlier this year, actor Jason Watkins described the night his two-year-old daughter, Maude, died in 2011 from sepsis after doctors discharged her saying she had a bad cold and croup.
The Bafta award-winning star of The Crown and his wife Clara made a documentary on their loss to raise awareness about the deadly infection.
The UK Sepsis Trust has previously said the condition affects 245,000 people and claims 48,000 lives in the UK each year.
In August, Strictly Come Dancing star Amy Dowden revealed she contracted sepsis after her first round of chemotherapy to treat breast cancer.
For the new study, data on 224,000 cases of sepsis in England between January 2019 to June 2022 was compared to more than 1.3 million people who did not have sepsis.
The study findings were published in the journal eClinicalMedicine.
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