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The contribution of viral pathogens to sepsis

SARS-CoV-2 accounted for one in six cases of sepsis during the first 33 months of the COVID-19 pandemic, highlighting the importance of viral sepsis, according to a new study.

Although sepsis is usually equated with bacterial infection, the pandemic has made it clear that viral infections can be an important cause of sepsis.

Few studies, however, have quantified the contribution of viral infections to the overall burden of sepsis and how the outcomes of patients with viral sepsis compare to those with bacterial sepsis.

The study researchers performed a retrospective cohort study using electronic health record (HER) data for all adults admitted to five Massachusetts hospitals from March 2020 to November 2022.

The team quantified the incidence and in-hospital mortality for sepsis associated with SARS-CoV-2 infections using clinical criteria adapted from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

They found that approximately one in six cases of sepsis were associated with SARS-CoV-2 during this period. The mortality rate for patients with SARS-CoV-2-associated sepsis was very high initially—33% over the first three months of the pandemic—but declined over time and eventually became similar to the mortality rate for presumed bacterial sepsis, a rate of about 14.5% that remained stable throughout the study period.

Image credit | Science-Photolibrary

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