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Driving faster clinical decisions about antibiotic treatment of hospitalised patients with serious infections

Professor Paul Dark

Author: Professor Paul Dark

Respiratory Non-fungal Infections Programme Lead

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On world sepsis day Professor Paul Dark, sub-theme project lead in respiratory infections discusses the challenge of antibiotic resistance and how his Manchester BRC research will drive faster clinical decisions about antibiotic treatment of hospitalised patients with serious infections.

Thousands of doses of potent broad-spectrum antibiotics are used daily in the NHS when patients are suspected of having sepsis – a very serious condition that causes at least 44,000 deaths a year in the UK.

Sepsis often presents as the clinical deterioration of common and preventable infections such as those of the respiratory tract. It occurs when the body’s response to an infection injures its own tissues and organs, leading to shock and multiple organ failure. At present whenever sepsis is suspected, patients are quickly treated with potent antibiotics, normally for at least seven to 10 days.

It is broad treatment with antibiotics over the years, for sepsis amongst other conditions that has led to antibiotic resistance. This happens when bacteria change and are no longer killed by the drugs used to treat the infections they cause.

Resistance to commonly prescribed antibiotics is becoming one of the biggest global challenges we face. Ultimately we want to use antibiotics more effectively, making sure we have the safest possible care for patients. My BRC research with Professor Tjeerd van Staa and Dr Tim Felton within respiratory infections will develop and evaluate software algorithms to process information about the patient’s condition, to help clinicians make timely, efficient and effective decisions on the antibiotics they use to treat patients in hospitals with serious infections like sepsis. This will optimise antibiotic treatments going forward and ultimately improve patient safety for future generations.

Paul Dark is also a Consultant in Critical Care Medicine at Salford Royal, part of the Northern Care Alliance NHS Group