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In medicine, early detection is often the key to successful treatment. That is certainly true with a condition known as sepsis, where a quick diagnosis means the difference between life and death. That is why a new device for detecting and managing sepsis is such a welcome development.

Although largely unknown to the general public, sepsis diagnoses in the United States are increasing every day and account for 1.6 million hospitalizations a year. The condition is caused by different types of bacteria that can appear to be simply a minor injury or illness. But it attacks the body quickly and the effects can be devastating: leading to whole-body organ failure, the need for amputations, and a mortality rate that is between 20-50%, depending greatly on how quickly victims are diagnosed and treated.

But diagnosis and treatment of sepsis has not been a straight-forward practice for doctors. The patient may suffer from symptoms—fever, low blood pressure, racing heartbeat—that could be indicative of many different disorders. Even if sepsis is suspected, without knowing the specific strain of bacteria for an individual patient, doctors are unable to prescribe the best medication—which is particularly important because many strains of bacteria that cause sepsis are resistant to specific types of antibiotics. So, getting the right antibiotic is crucial.

In short, the key for successful outcomes is the ability to quickly test for the bacteria and begin administering appropriate antibiotic treatment. In fact, one study has found that for every hour of delay in antibiotic treatment, the mortality rate increases by 7.6%. The Verigene Gram-positive Blood Culture Nucleic Acid Test, recently approved the FDA and now being tested in hospitals, aims to address the problem. In just a matter of three hours—instead of three days for traditional blood tests—the device will identify bacteria responsible for bloodstream infections and whether they are drug-resistant strains.

About the Editors: The Shapiro, Lewis & Appleton personal injury law firm, which has offices in Virginia (VA) and North Carolina (NC). The attorneys publish articles and edit the Legal Examiner for the Virginia Beach, Norfolk andNortheast North Carolina regions as pro bono service.

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