Researchers have identified molecular “signatures” found in the blood that clinicians can use to indicate how patients respond to sepsis, and they say their findings could be helpful in treating Covid-19.
Located in the immune component of the blood, the molecular profiles can also be used to point to other conditions, including septic shock and systemic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS).
“Our work highlights the importance of examining these molecular immune responses in determining outcome for patients”
Scientists were able to identify the molecules that were the most influential to the immune system, which could then be used as targets for drugs.
Researchers believe that clinicians will now be able to test and pre-emptively manage and treat patients based on their immune profiles.
They said that this approach could be applied to Covid-19 given that it manifests as a sepsis-like disease in the most severe cases.
Health professionals can also use this information to help distinguish between sepsis and SIRS, as both conditions are very similar, according to the study authors.
Despite sepsis being a major health issue in the UK – accounting for one in four intensive care admissions – there was a lack of knowledge surrounding how the immune system works in sepsis cases, they noted.
The research, led by Public Health England with Nottingham Trent University and Cardiff University, saw the scientists analyse the white blood cells of people with sepsis, septic shock and SIRS.
Then, using machine learning and artificial intelligence, the molecular signatures were developed and researchers were able to predict the immune response.
They were also able to predict if the condition had started in the lungs or abdomen.
“Detailed understanding of the molecular response to infection will help us to treat those patients with novel therapies”
Professor Graham Ball, from Nottingham Trent, said: “This approach provides new insights into how patients respond to these serious conditions based on their immune response and the molecular processes that define and drive disease progression.
“Our work highlights the importance of examining these molecular immune responses in determining outcome for patients,” he said.
“Another important aspect of this study is that the molecular processes we identified are similar to those defining patient outcome in Covid-19. Our methods could potentially be used to predict response and outcome for these patients too.”
Dr Tamas Szakmany, senior lecturer in intensive care at Cardiff University, said: “Sepsis on the intensive care unit can present in several ways and we have learnt that defining the group of patients based on solely clinical parameters is difficult.
“Detailed understanding of the molecular response to infection will help us to treat those patients with novel therapies, who are most likely to benefit from these experimental approaches.”