Opinion: Current efforts to fight sepsis aren’t working. We need a bolder approach

Sepsis kills more Americans than the top three cancers combined. Why has research on it been largely abandoned?
Group B streptococcus is one type of bacteria that can cause sepsis. Source: James Archer/CDC

If pharmaceutical and biotech companies gave up trying to find better treatments for stroke and Alzheimer’s disease, there would be public outrage. Yet that is essentially what has happened to sepsis, an infection that kills as many Americans each year — about 250,000 — as stroke and Alzheimer’s combined — with barely a whimper. If we can strive to fight a new scourge like opioids, we should be able to do the same for a much older killer.

Thanks to antibiotics, vaccinations, and public health advances like modern sanitation, it’s easy to think that Americans live largely free of the infectious diseases that once and typhoid, which once killed one percent of Americans each year, are now virtually unheard of in the U.S. Yet nearly 1.5 million Americans are hospitalized for sepsis each year, and it accounts for 1 in 3 deaths that occur in hospitals.

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