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More than 1.5 million people in the United States are diagnosed with sepsis each year. The number of sepsis cases has been on the rise in the U.S., and antibiotic resistance to UTIs plays a key role in this problem.
What is sepsis?
Sepsis is a condition caused by bacterial infection in the blood called septicemia. It develops when the bacteria involved in septicemia releases poisons. Sepsis is your immune system’s massive inflammatory response to these toxins. While the disease process is not entirely understood, sepsis is a life-threatening condition that occurs when the body's response to an infection harms its own tissues and organs. These toxins can cause blood vessels to leak, and blood clots. This restricts the flow of blood to you organs and may cause them to stop functioning. The scary part about sepsis? It can be triggered by minor infections. Sepsis is most commonly caused by pneumonia, abdominal infections, urinary tract infections (UTIs), or skin infections.
The link between sepsis and UTI’s
A urinary tract infection occurs when harmful bacteria such as E.coli are introduced to the urethra, the opening of your urinary tract. This bacteria then adheres to the inside of the urethra or bladder, multiplies, and causes an infection. When a UTI goes untreated, the infection can spread to your upper urinary tract through your ureters, to your kidneys, leading to urosepsis (sepsis in the urinary tract) and septic shock. Normally, UTIs are more of a nuisance, but untreated UTIs can escalate to sepsis and have fatal consequences.
More than half of the cases of urosepsis among older adults are caused by a UTI. In 2015, Nina Khaira was back in the hospital 8 days after giving birth for a UTI that had spread to her kidneys. Despite taking the routine UTI antibiotic trimethoprim, the infection persisted and Khaira developed sepsis. After running tests, doctors found that the strain of bacteria responsible was ESBL E. coli – which is resistant to most antibiotics. After 10 days the infection showed no sign of improving, however, after a rare antibiotic Aztreonam was administered 3 times intravenously for 12 days, the infection was beaten back. Khaira recalls, "I could have died, I could have left this child and my husband alone.”
Professor Belamy of the Leeds Institute of Biomedical and Clinical Science and president of the Intensive Care Society, describes the recent status of his own intensive care unit to the The Telegraph: “I have seen patients who are coming along who have infections which are pretty much resistant to all of the antibiotics, at least in normal doses...If we don’t develop new antibiotics and if we don’t control the problem of antibiotic resistance effectively there is this spectre emerging of moving into a post antibiotic era, an era where simple surgical operations will become life threatening.” According to the World Health Organization, the Enterobacteriaceae family as a number one, critical priority for pathogen families resistant to antibiotics. Escherichia coli or E.coli, the bacteria that causes 75% to 95% of UTIs, falls under the Enterobacteriaceae family. The repercussions for antibiotic resistance are immense when half of all women will develop a UTI at some time in the life span, and one in every five women suffer from repeat UTIs.
Prevention: Catching sepsis early on
Sepsis usually takes a day or two to develop after an infection. Glenn Hardesty, DO, an emergency medicine physician with Texas Health Resources says, “If you were to have a urinary tract infection on Sunday that progressed despite treatment, he or she could be in septic shock on Tuesday.” Early on, you may begin feeling disoriented and short of breath (because your body is going into overdrive). Other signs include:
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, see your doctor immediately. Dr. Hardesty also urges, “Don’t be afraid to be proactive either. Sepsis can progress quickly, so it’s important to be specific and direct about your concerns. Ask your healthcare provider, ‘Could this infection be leading to sepsis?’”
Other tips for doing your part in reducing antibiotic resistance:
Taking it one step further: UTI prevention
Most UTIs are treated with antibiotics in the course of three to fourteen days. However, to get ahead of antibiotic resistance, UTI prevention is key:
It’s time to get serious about your urinary health, especially when the antibiotics that treat UTIs are becoming less effective. If you are experiencing UTI symptoms, see your healthcare provider as soon as possible to avoid the infection from spreading to your kidneys and (possibly) escalating to sepsis. As common infections are becoming more resistant to antibiotics, Uqora is the safety net you need.
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