People with a learning disability are almost four times as likely to develop non-Covid-19 related sepsis and have an increased 30-day mortality risk, according to a new study.
The research, published in eClinicalMedicine, analysed 248,767 cases of non-Covid-19 sepsis from January 2019 to June, 2022 matched with 1,346,166 controls and found that the most socioeconomically deprived groups in society are nearly twice as likely to die from sepsis within 30 days.
Researchers say that the findings underscore the urgent need for sepsis risk prediction models that account for chronic disease status, deprivation status, and learning disabilities, along with infection severity. It also highlights the need to improve the prevention of sepsis, importance of considering factors commonly associated with health inequalities and the need for more precise targeting of antimicrobials.
Co-author Professor Tjeerd van Staa from The University of Manchester said: “We think the research provides comprehensive data and findings of relevance to healthcare systems worldwide. It underscores the urgent need for sepsis risk prediction models to account for chronic disease status, deprivation status, and learning disabilities, along with infection severity.
“Sepsis remains a global issue of significant concern so understanding its clinical and health inequality risk factors is essential to understanding at-risk cohorts and effective public health mitigations. There is an urgent need to improve the prevention of sepsis, including more precise targeting of antimicrobials to higher-risk patients.”
Sepsis develops when the body’s immune system overreacts to an infection and starts attacking its own tissues and organs. It accounts for a significant proportion of global mortality each year. Symptoms can be similar to those of flu and include severe breathlessness and a high fever. Around 80% of cases are believed to develop outside hospital in the UK.
The study was the first to analyse fluctuations in the incidence of non-Covid-19 sepsis before, during, and after the Covid-19 pandemic within a large population.
It found that the incidence rate decreased during the Covid-19 pandemic which could be attributable to lower risks of non-Covid-19 infections due reduced social mixing, and changes in healthcare delivery. The figures, however, rebounded to pre-pandemic levels in April 2021 after national lockdowns had been lifted.
Dr Colin Brown, lead for Antimicrobial Resistance and Sepsis at the UK Health Security Agency, added: “While severe infections and sepsis can impact anyone, our data is increasingly highlighting the complex interplay between socioeconomic status, underlying medical conditions and sepsis risk.
“Our research has found that some people were more likely to die from sepsis compared to others, including those in the lowest socioeconomic groups, and that those who need to take antibiotics more regularly are also at greater risk. Tackling inequalities is a core part of our public health approach and a deeper understanding of who serious bacterial infections affect will help us best target interventions to address them.”
The study is funded by UK Health Security Agency, Health Data Research UK and the National Institute for Health and Care Research Manchester Biomedical Research Centre.