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University of Missouri

When Septic Shock is Good

Electricity can diagnose deadly sepsis quickly.

Shramik Sengupta

Shramik Sengupta is pioneering a new approach to diagnosing sepsis. Photo courtesy of the College of Engineering.

Sometimes, the human body is its own enemy. In sepsis, the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, chemicals the body releases into the bloodstream to fight infection ignite inflammation throughout the body. Organs can fail. Death ensues in an estimated 28 percent of cases, and the overall problem costs more than $16 billion a year to treat. Although early detection is key to survival, current blood culturing methods take from 12 hours to three days to confirm the presence of bacteria involved in sepsis. That’s too long, especially for newborns, who can perish of sepsis in that time. At MU, Shramik Sengupta, assistant professor of biological engineering, leads a team that is pioneering a new approach that cuts the time to five hours. Sengupta hits blood samples with high-frequency electricity, and the bacteria store a charge that he can detect with an impedance analyzer. With that information in hand, physicians can move much sooner to prescribing the best antibiotic to cure their patients. A $375,000 Coulter Translational Partnership award funds Sengupta’s research.