Thursday, 21 May 2020

Is there a relationships between coronavirus and sepsis?

The rapid global spread of the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 has caused societal, economic, and medical upheaval not seen since the 1918 influenza pandemic. As of April 7th, the World Health Organization has confirmed cases in 203 countries, areas or territories, with over 1.2 million confirmed cases and over 65,000 deaths.  Further, many experts believe these numbers to be a gross underestimate for a variety of reasons, including inadequate testing capacity and suboptimal reporting of cases. Despite extensive modeling by epidemiologists all over the world, it is not possible to accurately predict the course and duration of this pandemic. It is important that we continue to obtain objective data on which we base recommendations. A calm and rational approach from both society and individuals is necessary during these uncertain times.

There remains considerable confusion regarding the differences between seasonal influenza and COVID-19 (the illness caused by SARS-CoV-2). While both viruses are capable of causing severe illness and can spread rapidly, it appears that SARS-CoV-2 is a more deadly pathogen on a case-by-case basis, can be spread during the asymptomatic phase, and is capable of much more rapid spread. The higher burden and mortality may be attributed to the fact that SARS-CoV-2 is a “newly emerged” virus, and consequently, there is very little innate immunity to it among humans, unlike with influenza where both prior infection and annual vaccination can provide protection. Overall, however, the sheer contagiousness of this new virus has led to the high morbidity and mortality seen globally – simply put, healthcare systems have been unable to cope with the number of infected persons seeking care. Indeed, a proportion of the reported deaths are due to overwhelmed medical systems rather than the virulence of COVID-19. This is a crucial factor explaining the “flatten the curve” strategy adopted by many countries.

Now that more scientific data are available on COVID-19, the Global Sepsis Alliance can more definitively state that COVID-19 does indeed cause sepsis.

To read more, see: World Sepsis Day

Posted by Dr. Tim Sandle, Pharmaceutical Microbiology Resources (

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