Sepsis research could improve survival

Sepsis and septic shock are one of the leading causes of death in hospital patients worldwide, but new research by Australian emergency medicine clinicians could lead to better survival rates.

With funding from the Queensland Government, the Emergency Medicine Foundation (EMF) awarded Dr Julian Williams a $90,056 research grant to improve the early identification and treatment of septic shock.

Sepsis causes more deaths than prostate cancer, breast cancer and HIV/AIDS combined.1,

Each year, there are about 15,000 cases of severe sepsis and septic shock in Australian and New Zealand intensive care units.2

Septic shock occurs when a body-wide infection causes blood pressure to drop too low. Any type of bacterial, fungal or viral infection can led to sepsis and then septic shock, but the illness mostly affects children and the elderly.

Dr Williams, who is an Emergency Medicine Department Staff Specialist at the Royal Brisbane & Women’s Hospital, and his research team identified 399 septic shock patients admitted to Queensland emergency departments.

They then determined the characteristics, treatment and outcomes for these patients.

The team found that patients treated earlier and with greater volumes of intravenous fluid and early vasopressor therapy (treatment that raises blood pressure) had better survival rates.

Dr Williams said that the research data could help reduce invasive therapies and costly ICU admissions for patients with septic shock.

Since 2008, EMF has invested $421,414 in sepsis research, which included the establishment of a sepsis registry by Dr Williams.

More about this research

Research paper


  1. World Sepsis Day Organisation [internet] 2014. [cited 2014,March 31] Available from:
  2. Finfer S, Bellomo R, Lipman J.,“Adult-population incidence of severe sepsis in Australian and New Zealand intensive care units”, Intensive Care Medicine 2004; 30:589-596.

Stock image used.


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