To identify biomarkers which distinguish severe sepsis/septic shock from uncomplicated sepsis in the Emergency Department (ED).
Patients with sepsis underwent serial blood sampling, including arrival in the ED and up to three subsequent time points over the first 24 hours. Messenger RNA (mRNA) levels of 13 genes representing arms of the innate immune response, organ dysfunction or shock were measured in peripheral blood leucocytes using quantitative PCR, and compared with healthy controls. Serum protein concentrations of targets differentially expressed between uncomplicated sepsis and severe sepsis/septic shock were then measured at each time point and compared between the two patient groups.
Of 27 participants (median age 66 years, (IQR 35, 78)), 10 had uncomplicated sepsis and 17 had sepsis with organ failure (14 septic shock; 3 had other sepsis-related organ failures). At the time of first sample collection in the ED, gene expression of Interleukin (IL)-10 and Neutrophil Gelatinase Associated Lipocalin (NGAL) were significantly higher in severe sepsis than uncomplicated sepsis. Expression did not significantly change over time for any target gene. Serum concentrations of IL-6, IL-8, IL-10, NGAL and Resistin were significantly higher in severe sepsis than uncomplicated sepsis at the time of first sample collection in the ED, but only IL-8, NGAL and Resistin were consistently higher in severe sepsis compared to uncomplicated sepsis at all time points up to 24 h after presentation.
These mediators, produced by both damaged tissues and circulating leukocytes, may have important roles in the development of severe sepsis. Further work will determine whether they have any value, in addition to clinical risk parameters, for the early identification of patients that will subsequently deteriorate and/or have a higher risk of death.