In recent years, healthcare professionals and the general public have become increasingly aware of the growing problem of antimicrobial resistance, or AMR. In 2019, the World Health Organization listed AMR as one of the top global health threats facing humanity. In the last few years, AMR has become a key topic of conversation in healthcare advocacy spaces, and educational offerings on the topic have risen in popularity. Less often discussed, however, are conditions interconnected with AMR – complications of infection with the potential to increase in both frequency and severity as antimicrobial resistance becomes an even larger global problem. Chief among these conditions is sepsis. Sepsis is the body’s overwhelming and often life-threatening response to an infection. It can be bacterial, viral, parasitic, or fungal in nature, but it is always caused by an infection and very often requires effective antimicrobials to treat. Sepsis already affects 1.7 million people in the U.S. every year and takes 350,000 lives – more than from prostate cancer, breast cancer, and opioid overdose combined. As antimicrobial resistance worsens, even more infections will develop into sepsis, and sepsis cases will become increasingly difficult to treat. More sepsis patients will suffer harmful consequences, which can include amputations and death.
From a healthcare professional’s perspective, sepsis presents a unique conundrum. Timely treatment with antimicrobials is of the utmost importance. For some sepsis patients, a delay can mean a limb lost, or can even make the difference between life and death: in fact, studies show that every hour sepsis treatment is delayed is associated with a 4-9% increased chance of progression to septic shock. In these fast-moving cases, antimicrobial overuse and misuse is a risk. In some instances, important factors such as patient histories, infection sources, and resistance patterns may not inform the treatment paths pursued. What’s more, a treatment approach that does not emphasize multidisciplinary care and care continuity can sometimes mean that patients who have been successfully stabilized are not given an appropriate plan for antimicrobial de-escalation. These actions can contribute to the growing problem of AMR, which will make the next sepsis patient that much harder to treat.
Sepsis Alliance, the nation’s first and leading sepsis education and advocacy organization, is seeking to change this lack of knowledge and education at the intersection of sepsis and AMR, particularly for healthcare professionals. The organization is working to bring sepsis awareness into AMR advocacy spaces, in partnership with PFID and others on the front lines of this important work. In 2021, Sepsis Alliance developed the eye-catching “POWER the AMRevolution” education campaign, which explained the relationship between sepsis and AMR and highlighted how individuals can become empowered to take action.
At the annual Sepsis Alliance Summit, a free and virtual conference for healthcare professionals coming up on September 28 and 29, topics will include infection prevention, sepsis diagnosis, treatment pathways, and more. One new session offered this year will be “Multidisciplinary Approach to Bugs & Drugs: Deciding When and What Antimicrobials to Use in Adult Sepsis Patients.” In this session, attendees will review the most important factors in selecting antimicrobial therapies for adult sepsis patients and will learn to recognize the most appropriate time to begin antimicrobial therapy in this population. Attendees will also develop an understanding of the importance of a multidisciplinary approach to antimicrobial stewardship and will learn to develop appropriate follow-up plans for antimicrobial de-escalation. These are the kinds of applicable skills that healthcare professionals across the continuum of care can utilize in practice, both to improve sepsis patient outcomes and to help offset the broader problem of antimicrobial overuse.
“It’s absolutely vital that we provide those on the front lines with the most up-to-date, expert information about the relationship between AMR and sepsis,” said Cindy Hou, DO, FIDSA, Infection Control Officer and Medical Director of Research for Jefferson Health - New Jersey and Chief Medical Officer for Sepsis Alliance. "AMR is a global health problem that threatens the prevention and treatment of everyday infections, and everyone has a role in this fight."