Across Australia and New Zealand, more than 500 children are put on life support due to sepsis infection every year, and 50 sadly die despite optimal care. But a Queensland-wide team of hospitals, health staff and researchers, engaged by the Gold Coast Health Emergency Departments and Paediatric ICU, are finding a way to meet the urgent need for improved diagnostic tests and treatment options – and they need your help.
Dr Shane George, a specialist in Emergency Medicine and Paediatric Care at the Gold Coast University Hospital, says that the initial results of recent research studies show that gene-expression tests can give faster and more accurate diagnosis of infection than conventional testing – by providing earlier diagnosis of sepsis, we can greatly improve the changes of saving children’s lives.
“Every hour delay that occurs in administering antibiotics leads to a 6 per cent rise in mortality in children with infection. This means the most promising approach to improving health outcomes for children with sepsis infection relies on a rapid diagnosis. Sepsis, once detected, is easily treated. But sepsis seems to disguise itself as other illnesses, delaying diagnosis,” Dr George said.
“Unfortunately, one of the major limitations in sepsis management is the delay in obtaining accurate diagnosis. Current conventional tests take up to 48 hours to produce results, often leading to inappropriate antibiotic administration, unnecessary hospitalisation and increased risk of drug resistant bacteria if over-treated, and at worst, increased mortality. This is why medical research, funded by Gold Coast Hospital Foundation is vital.”
Lily, an 18-month-old Gold Coaster, is just one example of the risks associated with conventional sepsis testing. Sepsis often has symptoms similar to viruses that are common among children, so it was initially hard for doctors to identify the cause of Lily’s illness – her mum, Anita, took her to the doctor twice, and it was on her second hospital visit that it could be diagnosed.
“It all started with flu-like systems. I knew she wasn’t well but she didn’t have the words to tell me what was wrong,” Anita said.
Dr Christa Bell at the university hospital was the clinician who diagnosed Lily’s sepsis before it led to organ failure, or even death.
“Frighteningly, the infection had travelled into her bloodstream and attached to her tiny heart. Her condition was so serious that she was given a 2 per cent chance of survival and had to undergo open heart surgery to remove the infection,” Dr Bell said.
To continue the life-saving research into sepsis treatment, the Gold Coast Hospital Foundation will need to raise $100,000 – which is where you come in. Foundation CEO Kim Sutton says that, so far, caring local donors and businesses have donated $56,000, meaning that the remaining $44,000 will need to come from generous Gold Coasters.
“With your donation our health researchers and health teams will recruit 550 acutely ill children presenting to our Emergency and PICU Units and test the feasibility, performance, time to diagnose and cost of applying the most advanced gene-expression-based sepsis diagnostic tools,” Kim says.
Established 24 years ago, the Gold Coast Hospital Foundation is the official charity for Gold Coast Health, including the Gold Coast University Hospital and Robina Hospital. They help more than 95,000 patients from the local community every year and raise funds to help medical professionals make a difference in the lives of sick and injured children and adults by delivering a range of vital programs, medical equipment and research funding.
Gold Coast Hospital Foundation is confident that once it secures the remaining funds, it will ensure Gold Coast children treated at the university hospital will also be able to benefit from this landmark study.
To donate to the Gold Coast Hospital Foundation, head to www.gchfoundation.org.au/donate.