Tuesday, June 22, 2010
A study out of the University of Pittsburgh published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association looks into the high incidence of severe sepsis in blacks compared to whites. Sepsis is a condition where an overwhelming infection leads to organ infection, sending patients to the intensive care units of hospitals. The study's co-author, Doctor Sachin Yende, says they wanted to try and determine two things: whether blacks have a higher risk of developing an infection and once they do develop infection and are in the hospital, whether they have a higher risk of organ failure/dysfunction. They found that blacks have a 67% higher rate of severe sepsis and 80% higher mortality than whites. They also have a 29% higher risk than whites of having organ dysfunction. Yende says there are a handful of potential reasons blacks have a greater risk of infection than whites. Blacks tended to develop infections at a younger age, but vaccines guidelines have them administered later in life -- too late for many since the disparities in risk of infection were apparent in individuals as young as 25, who did not have any underlying chronic conditions. He also cited socio-economic factors and a difference in genetics, where blacks have a harder time fighting off infection than whites. Once the infection has taken hold, Yende says that researchers should look into hospital level interventions. He says studies have shown that blacks often receive treatment at hospitals that provide lower quality care. One step would be to measure infection rates at hospitals that largely serve African-American populations and using that data, help those institutions follow protocols for treating infections. Yende says prevention through vaccination guideline modification coupled with hospital level interventions would be a good start.