Promising new rapid diagnostic test for sepsis

27 Feb 2019
Promising new rapid diagnostic test for sepsis

Meningitis Research Foundation (MRF) welcomes the news that researchers at the University of Strathclyde are developing a test to rapidly diagnose sepsis.

Sepsis is the body’s overwhelming response to infection that can lead to tissue damage, organ failure and death (the terms septicaemia and sepsis are sometimes used interchangeably).

If the bacteria in the blood reach the fluid surrounding the brain this causes meningitis – the swelling of the meninges (the lining around the brain and spinal cord). Meningitis and sepsis can occur at the same time and both can kill within hours.

The new test in development, which researchers believe will be available in three to five years, can detect if a molecule known as interleukin-6 (IL-6) is present in the bloodstream, in just two and a half minutes. The levels of IL-6 in the blood increase in many patients who have sepsis or meningitis.

"IL-6 is an indicator of both sepsis and bacterial meningitis, meaning the test in development could potentially help diagnose both conditions." - Linda Glennie, MRF

Commenting on the news, Linda Glennie, Director of Research at MRF said, “Meningitis and sepsis are very difficult to identify in the early stages, but can rapidly progress to become life-threatening, leaving a very short window of time for treatment. This is why rapid diagnosis is vital to save lives.

“We have previously funded research into the role of IL-6 in severe sepsis due to meningococcal infection - an important cause of both meningitis and sepsis. IL-6 is an indicator of both sepsis and bacterial meningitis, meaning the test in development could potentially help diagnose both conditions.

“There are other potential indicators of meningitis and sepsis, but this research is really encouraging as it appears to work much quicker than some existing hospital tests, which can take up to 72 hours, and the aim is for it to work with just a pin-prick sample of blood, so pre-hospital point of care testing could be feasible.

“A simple, rapid diagnostic test for meningitis and sepsis is crucial and long overdue and we look forward to seeing how this research develops.”

Our current research programme
Our current research programme
Since the charity was founded in 1989, we have awarded 161 research grants. The total value of our investment in vital scientific research is over £19.1 million (€24.7 million).
Media contact
Sam Williams - Media Relations Manager
Tel: 07875 498047
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