Team in fight against killer disease

ENGINEERS and scientists from Yorkshire are leading efforts to develop a diagnostic for the early detection of sepsis, a disease which kills more people than Aids, prostate and breast cancer combined globally.

A consortium led by Leeds-based biotechnology company MicroLab Devices is behind the £600,000 diagnostic project, named Prompt Sepsis, which received £317,800 of match-funding from the Technology Strategy Board. York company Forsite Diagnostics and the University of Liverpool are also part of the consortium.

According to The Sepsis Trust, Sepsis claims more than 37,000 lives in the UK annually. It arises when the body’s response to an infection injures its own tissues and organs. Sepsis leads to shock, multiple organ failure and death especially if not recognised early and treated promptly, the trust says.

Sign up to our Business newsletter

Sign up to our Business newsletter

Dr Tom Myers, the consortium lead and managing director of MicroLab Devices, said: “Surviving sepsis is all about early detection. The early symptoms of sepsis are fever like, therefore it is easy to misdiagnose. If the condition is diagnosed and treated in the first hour following presentation, the patient has more than an 80 per cent survival rate. After the sixth hour, the patient only has a 30 per cent chance of survival.”

He added: “Currently, hospital tests can take several hours from taking a blood sample to starting treatment. For me, the most alarming fact about sepsis is that our own body’s over-response to infection can kill you.”

Dr Enitan Carrol, from the University of Liverpool, identified a panel of biomarkers which can identify bacterial infection in the early stages of sepsis. The panel is being further evaluated in clinical trials. Using a combination of technologies, available through the consortium, they are working towards a miniature, disposable, low-cost test.

Dr Myers added: “Our ultimate goal is for this test to be available for use in hospitals, GP surgeries, walk-in centres and in developing countries.”

MicroLab Devices, founded in 2010, employs four people and is affiliated with Don Electronics, which is based on the same site at Yeadon. Today is the inaugural World Sepsis Day, which is designed to engage with the public to raise awareness of the disease.