New study estimates more sepsis deaths globally

21 Jan 2020
New study estimates more sepsis deaths globally

New research, published in the Lancet and widely reported, estimates that the burden of sepsis globally is double what was previously thought.

Meningitis and sepsis are deadly diseases that strike without warning. In the UK, one in ten people affected will die and a third of survivors will be left with after-effects, some as serious as brain damage, amputations, blindness or hearing loss.  According to Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), despite major progress over the last 20 years, meningitis is still the world’s sixth largest infectious disease killer

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"Effective vaccines, increased vaccination coverage, and improved diagnosis and treatment are a vital part of tackling this issue - Claire Wright, Evidence and Policy Officer, MRF

The research reports that the striking increase is attributable to a far higher sepsis burden being estimated to occur in areas where data is lacking.  The study estimated that sepsis incidence and mortality varied substantially across regions, with the highest burden in sub-Saharan Africa, Oceania, south Asia, east Asia, and southeast Asia. 

The Maternal Child Epidemiology Estimation (MCEE), found that combined, meningitis and neonatal sepsis are the second largest infectious killers of children under 5.

Meningitis Research Foundation (MRF) is a charity which campaigns to defeat meningitis and sepsis globally.  Claire Wright, Evidence and Policy Manager for MRF said: “It is crucial to address the causes of sepsis across all ages.  Effective vaccines, increased vaccination coverage, and improved diagnosis and treatment are a vital part of tackling this issue.”

Estimates from this new study have been based on extrapolating data from four countries and using this to predict sepsis deaths for the rest of the world rather than using reported deaths. Based on this, the researchers estimated nearly 49 million cases of sepsis with 11 million deaths, representing nearly 20% of all global deaths.  Other findings include that age-standardised sepsis incidence fell by 37·0% and mortality decreased by 52·8% from 1990 to 2017.

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