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£2m trial seeks to inform better use of antibiotics in sepsis

1 November 2019

World Sepsis Day
Dr Simran Sharma performing a simulation to raise awareness of the significance of sepsis during pregnancy.

Cardiff University’s Centre for Trials Research is to coordinate a trial looking at use of antibiotics in sepsis.

Sepsis is a potentially life-threatening complication of an infection and it is estimated that 52,000 people in the UK die every year as a result of it.

Optimal treatment includes early recognition, prompt antibiotics and fluids.

The trial will look at emergency assessment of sepsis and whether antibiotics are being oversubscribed, which experts cite as a significant factor leading to increasing antimicrobial resistance.

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Professor Enitan Carrol, member of The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence’s (NICE) sepsis guideline development group, and co-applicant on the trial, said: “Sepsis guidelines recommend urgent antibiotics for suspected cases and since their introduction, have led to a 50% increase in broad spectrum intravenous antibiotic use adult in adult emergency departments.

“This is contributing to increased antimicrobial resistance.. Further stratification is needed to decide which patients really need intravenous antibiotics within an hour, and which can wait whilst further assessments are conducted. Our trial could help answer this question.”

Professor Neil French, from the University of Liverpool’s Institute of Infection and Global Health, which is leading the trial, said: “We have to use antibiotics far more smartly and we need the best possible evidence to do this.”

The trial will look at whether Procalcitonin (PCT), a blood test not widely used in the NHS, could improve assessment of sepsis when combined with the National Early Warning Score (NEWS), which is used in 90% of English hospitals.

Adults with suspected sepsis in 10 NHS hospitals will be randomly assigned the current standard of care and PCT-supported care, as part of the trial.

The Procalcitonin and NEWS evaluation for timely identification of sepsis and optimal use of antibiotics (PRONTO) study, which starts in December 2019, will last for three years.

The project is funded by the National Institute for Health Research.

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