Clinicians at Portsmouth’s Queen Alexandra Hospital are leading medical trials of a blood test that could help to save thousands of UK lives a year by predicting sepsis days before patients show any symptoms.
The test, originally researched over 10 years at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl), is now being developed by government spin-out company, Presymptom Health, which believes it could save billions of pounds globally and improve clinical outcomes for sepsis patients.
Sepsis is the immune system’s overreaction to an infection or injury and is associated with life-threatening organ dysfunction.
Worldwide, an estimated 49 million people a year contract sepsis, while in the UK almost two million patients admitted to hospital each year are thought to be at risk of developing the condition.
This is a tremendously-exciting technology that could save lives and provide a valuable tool for use in future disease control
Presymptom Health believes the technology can predict whether a patient will develop sepsis around three days before symptoms appear, enabling clinicians to treat them much sooner and manage them more effectively.
Professor Dame Angela McLean, chief scientific adviser for the MOD, said: “The announcement today is a great step forward in finding potential new ways to tackle sepsis, which causes up to 48,000 deaths and significant life-changing effects in nearly 80,000 people in the UK every year.
“The seminal work led by Dstl, now taken forward by Presymptom Health, has the potential to provide the technology capable of detecting sepsis early, enabling more-rapid treatment, and saving lives.”
The trials are being led by Dr Paul Schmidt and his team at Portsmouth Hospitals University NHS Trust, with two other sites anticipated to go live over the summer.
Up to 600 patients admitted to hospital with respiratory tract infections will be given the option to participate in the trial.
The promising technology has received £200,000 in funding from Ploughshare Innovations, which takes research created by world-leading government laboratories, such as Dstl, and commercialises it to deliver societal impact.
This seminal work has the potential to provide the technology capable of detecting sepsis early, enabling more-rapid treatment, and saving lives
Iain Miller, chief executive at Presymptom Health, said: “This test may represent a significant step in the prediction of sepsis.
“The significant investment from Ploughshare Innovations has enabled us to rapidly develop this test to get to the clinical trial stage.
“We are very grateful for their backing, and for the support of the clinicians at Portsmouth Hospitals University NHS Trust and we are confident that this trial will confirm our test’s ability to provide vital and life-saving results when they are most needed.”
Hetti Barkworth-Nanton, chief executive at Ploughshare Innovations, adds: “This is a tremendously-exciting technology that could save lives and provide a valuable tool for use in future disease control.
“It is unusual for Ploughshare to make R&D investments in its spin-out companies, but the potential impact of Presymptom Health’s work is so great that we saw a huge value in accelerating its development so that these trials could happen.”
The initial trials will last 12 months and will include samples taken from patients alongside samples collected in a Dstl biobank.
The data will be independently assessed and used to refine and validate the test, which may be available for broader NHS use within two years.
If successful, this test could also identify sepsis arising from other infections before symptoms appear, which could potentially include future waves of COVID-19 and other pandemics.