2 Sep 2017

How bacteria might stop sepsis infection

From This Way Up, 12:50 pm on 2 September 2017
Lactobacillus acidophilus

Lactobacillus acidophilus Photo: (By Mogana Das Murtey and Patchamuthu Ramasamy CC BY-SA 3.0)

Sepsis is a potentially life-threatening complication which happens when your body's attempts to fight off an infection go badly wrong.

Basically, your immune system overreacts, causing inflammation throughout your body that can damage your organs and even kill you if it isn't treated quickly.

Around the world there an estimated 30 million cases every year and it kills some 5 million people.

Sepsis is especially dangerous if you are older or immuno-compromised. In parts of the developing world where babies are often born early and underweight it kills hundreds of thousands of infants every year.

Now scientists have found that if you feed babies a particular strain of probiotic bacteria – a type of lactobacillus found in kimchi, yoghurt and fermented vegetables – you can dramatically reduce this risk.  

It's really cheap too, with a whole course of the treatment costing about $1.30. 

Professor Pinaki Panigrahi of the University of Nebraska Medical Center is on the team that made the discovery.