A drug that may be able to stop patients with the potentially deadly condition sepsis from suffering multiple organ failure is being developed by Irish researchers.
The early stage research, which is still at pre-clinical stage, by the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) could lead to the first non-antibiotic treatment for sepsis.
Sepsis is a relatively rare but serious complication of infection, which needs a quick response to stop multiple organ failure and death.
It kills 3,000 people in Ireland every year, but if it is caught early, it can be treated using antibiotics.
However, in many cases, antibiotics are not effective due to drug resistance or delays in identifying the type of bacteria that have caused the infection.
It means there is a need for a non-antibiotic therapy that can be used at all stages of infection against all bacterial causes of sepsis.
The findings relating to the pre-clinical trial of the potentila drug, known as InnovoSep, were presented to at the college's annual research meeting yesterday.
Principal investigator Professor Steve Kerrigan, associate professor in pharmacology at RCSI and inventor of InnovoSep, said: "Sepsis occurs when an infection gets into the bloodstream and our own body's defence system spins out of control trying to fight the infection, which results in multiple organ failure if untreated.
"There is only a short window of opportunity for treatment of sepsis with the early administration of antibiotics and fluid. However, in many cases antibiotics are not effective due to drug resistance or delays in identifying the type of bacteria that has caused the infection.
"Therefore, there is a need for a non-antibiotic therapy that can be used at all stages of infection against all bacterial causes of sepsis."
Prof Kerrigan said finding a new therapy was critical "as current research from the World Sepsis Alliance suggests that the incidence of sepsis is growing annually by 8pc".
He added: "Our research has shown the InnovoSep candidate drug can prevent sepsis progression early or indeed treat advanced sepsis.
"The drug appears to act by preventing the bacteria from getting into the bloodstream from the site of infection by stabilising the blood vessels so that they cannot leak bacteria and infect the major organs.
"The promising results of the InnovoSep pre-clinical trial give hope for a new non-antibiotic treatment of this condition that could be effective in both the early and more advanced stages of sepsis which results in almost 3,000 deaths in Ireland each year."
The signs and symptoms of sepsis mirror those of flu and include high temperature, rapid heart rate, rapid breathing, pain, pale or mottled skin and feeling generally very sick.
Sepsis symptoms come on very quickly, whereas flu develops over days.