Study of rolE of PlateletS In Sepsis (SEPSIS)

Sepsis is a severe illness caused by a bloodstream infection and is the primary cause of death in-hospital. While antibiotics are the primary treatment for sepsis the emergence of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria along with the inability to culture bacteria from blood in many cases makes treating sepsis challenging. The discovery of new antibiotics is not necessarily the solution as resistance appears within 2-years of the introduction of a new antibiotic. Furthermore the early symptoms of sepsis are non-specific making early diagnosis difficult.

Thrombocytopenia is a reduction in the number of circulating platelets. This is a common finding in sepsis and is unlikely to be a chance finding. Evidence suggests that platelets are consumed by direct interaction with bacteria. This activation leads to the formation of clots throughout the body - Disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC) often referred to as Death Is Coming!

If DIC is due to platelet activation then anti-platelet agents may be useful in preventing its occurrence. Aspirin is the most commonly used anti-platelet agent and is standard of care in treating heart attacks. One large study that looked at patients with a history of heart disease who were on daily aspirin found that they had significantly better survival compared to patients not on aspirin. Together these data suggest that platelets play a role in sepsis and that targeting platelets may be a useful treatment strategy in sepsis.

In our study we propose to recruit patients presenting to the emergency department with sepsis. We will monitor platelet function in these patients to see if it helps diagnose sepsis or predict outcome. We will determine if sepsis-related coagulation abnormalities are related to activation of platelets or activation of coagulation. This will guide treatment of DIC as it will determine if anti-platelet or anti-coagulant drugs would be most effective.

Award Date
01 July 2022
Award Value
Principal Investigator
Professor Dermot Cox
Host Institution
Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland
Investigator Led Projects