This week, I had the opportunity to watch “Starfish”, a British independent film which tells the story of Tom Ray, and the challenges him and his family faced after he contracted sepsis. When his dentist accidentally scratched his gums, it resulted in blood poisoning and Tom was left with cold hands and feet, headaches and stomach pains a few days later. After nine months in a hospital, Tom had gone through a coma and several operations. He came home as a quadruple amputee, both arms and legs, with his face disfigured; narrowly escaping death.
Sepsis is potentially a fatal condition, when the body goes into overdrive when responding to infection, caused by (most commonly) bacteria, viruses or fungi. This may have started anywhere in the body. It can also be contracted following a chest or water infection, and even from the simplest skin injuries like a cut. The immune system then damages its own tissues and results in organ failures, which is life-threatening- meaning it should be treated urgently.
In the US state of Virginia, Dr. Paul Marik claims to have an improvised cure for sepsis. One woman, aged 48, had contracted the condition but was perfectly healthy before. She walked into the hospital with her kidneys and lungs not functioning properly. Marik stated that in cases like these, it is likely that it results in death. However, the patient was well enough to leave the hospital two days after.
Influenced by research carried out at the Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), Dr Marik injected the patient with a mix of vitamin C, steroids and thiamine as a last resort. Ever since first using it in January 2016, Dr Marik has used the treatment on 150 patients and only one has died from sepsis. Despite this, small-scale studies usually do not show the same effectiveness when in large populations. It is also unknown exactly which chemical or component in the mixture is successful in curing sepsis. Therefore, further testing is needed on the efficacy of the treatment.
Alternatively, some experts have recently stated that non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can possibly treat sepsis. Initially, researchers had known that NSAIDs block an enzyme called cyclooxygenase. However, recent studies show that a subgroup inhibits the caspase enzyme, which, if triggered, can lead to to sepsis. Bacteria can initiate cell death and cause inflammation, resulting in the condition. Through studying worms, the drugs proved to be effective in blocking caspase and delaying the death of cells. Nevertheless, there are some side effects that arise from using these drugs, including an increased risk of heart attacks. So researchers are unsure whether they are the right treatment to be used.
In the UK alone, there are 150,000 cases of sepsis, and 44,000 of those cases result in death. It causes more deaths than breast, prostate and bowel cancer combined. Those with severe cases of sepsis are five times more likely to die than those with a stroke or heart attack. Antibiotics and fluids have been proven to treat sepsis. Nonetheless, medical attention should be given within an hour of it being suspected.