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New technology to combat blood poisoning

Published: 2013-11-28

Researchers at SciLifeLab were recently granted money from Uppsala BIO-X to develop a new lab-on-a-chip diagnostic tool for early and rapid diagnosis of sepsis. The hope is that the technology will not only save lives but also reduce the development of antibiotic resistance by offering prescription only to patients who would benefit from the treatment.


Sepsis, or blood poisoning, is a serious medical condition characterized by inflammation in the whole body caused by bacterial infection. If the condition is left untreated, it leads to organ dysfunction and death. The progress is fast and mortality is increasing by eight percent every hour the patient does not get appropriate treatment. Sepsis leads to death in 20-30 percent of cases and accounts for around 146 000 lives in the EU per year. Adequate treatment reduces mortality significantly if it is given within 24-48 hours but current standard diagnosis based on cultivation of bacteria from blood samples takes two to seven days. Since these tests are so slow, antibiotics are often prescribed as a precaution to patients where symptoms are unclear to avoid sepsis. This broad prescription spurs the development of antibiotic resistant bacterial strains. It is therefore vital that we develop early and rapid diagnostic methods for the condition.

Researchers at SciLifeLab are now trying to develop a new tool for sepsis diagnosis. The project, led by Aman Russom, is one of three projects aiming to provide solutions to fight hospital-acquired infections that were recently granted money from Uppsala BIO-X. The technique that the SciLifeLab researchers are working on is a lab-on-a-chip system for fast detection of bacteria in the blood.

“Targeted antibiotic prescription is hampered by the lack of rapid diagnostic procedures available for the clinician”, says Aman Russom, associate professor at KTH Royal Institute of Technology. “If we can develop a simple, fast system to test for bacteria in the blood stream, we would not only reduce the mortality associated with sepsis, but also prevent unnecessary prescription of antibiotics”.

The project is part of the BugSee consortium that includes KTH Royal Institute of Technology, University of Antwerp and a company, LumiByte.

Aman Russom, associate professor, KTH

Aman Russom, associate professor, KTH