Sepsis is much deadlier than once believed, according to a new Lancet study by more than a dozen researchers, NPR Shots reports.
The blood poisoning occurs when the body "overreacts to an infection," bringing on multiple organ failure.
But an underlying condition—like cancer—is typically listed as the cause of death even when sepsis was ultimately the killer.
2 dozen researchers from the University of Pittsburgh, University of Washington and elsewhere found:
- Sepsis is responsible for some 20% of all deaths worldwide—and that’s likely a low estimate.
- In 2017, 85% of sepsis cases occurred in low- or middle-income countries; over 40% were children under 5.
- Sepsis is the top killer of US hospital patients.
A possible bright spot: The sepsis death rate has halved since 1990 (though other studies have found an increase).
Stopping sepsis means improving sanitation, preventing hospital-acquired infections, and persuading elected officials to prioritize the issue, ScienceDaily reports.