Potential of new rapid sepsis test will take time to fully measure, medics say

Illness can be difficult to detect and publicity claims it could save thousands of lives

A breakthrough in rapid testing for sepsis has been given a lukewarm welcome by Irish doctors who believe it will take time to fully measure its potential.

Sepsis is a life-threatening condition triggered when infection in the bloodstream overwhelms the body’s immune system.

Researchers in the UK say they have successfully developed a fast-acting test which can detect it in the body within three minutes.

The illness can be difficult to detect and publicity surrounding the new test claims it could save thousands of lives should it be made available through the UK’s health service in the coming years.


However, Irish doctors have yet to be fully convinced. While welcoming the potential, Dr Chris Luke, a Cork-based expert in emergency medicine, said comparable technologies have been developed in the past and have come to nothing. Others, he said, take years to reach fruition.

“There are a number of practical steps that have to be gone through before you make them universally available,” he said.

“It can take years [TO ARRIVE AT]safety and feasibility.”

Dr Ray Walley, vice president of the Standing Committee of European Doctors, an umbrella organisation representing 30 separate associations, said it would remain to be seen whether it would be a commercially driven product and whether it would be affordable.

He also said a health technology assessment - a kind of cost-benefit analysis for medical products - would have to be carried out.

“Certainly it looks great,” he said, “I’m not too sure how long it will take to get to the end line.”

Described as a low-cost test - which would ideally be used at the bedside in hospitals and in GP surgeries - it has been developed by researchers at Strathclyde University.

Dr Damion Corrigan, from the university's department of biomedical engineering, said: "With sepsis, the timing is key. For every hour that you delay antibiotic treatment, the likelihood of death increases."

- Additional reporting PA

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard is a reporter with The Irish Times