Sepsis, commonly known as Septicaemia, affects thousands of Australians each year clogging up intensive care units.
It occurs when certain bacteria enters the blood stream causing severe inflammation.
People with pre-existing medical conditions are most at risk, but it can strike anyone.
“If it becomes severe, what happens is people develop kidney failure [and] need to go on ventilators,” said Associate Professor David Pilcher at the Australian and New Zealand Intensive Care Society.
He says the disease has a high mortality rate.
“In the past it’s always been associated with a very high mortality, so in Australia it used to be 35 per cent, overseas in developing countries it can be 60, 80, 90 per cent.”
But landmark research by Monash University and the Australian and New Zealand Intensive Care Society has found that in Australia, ICU deaths from Sepsis infection, have declined dramatically in 12 years.
Despite an almost 3 per cent increase in Sepsis patients admitted to ICU in Australia and New Zealand between 2000 and 2012, mortality rates have almost halved, with the number of deaths dropping from 35 per cent, to 18.4 per cent.
Researchers believe it’s better specialist care and resources that have made the difference.
Across Australia and New Zealand, there are about 12,000 patients a year admitted to intensive care units with Sepsis.
The research has yet to find how well survivors cope after battling the infection.
“These patients who go off to rehab and chronic care, we don’t actually know what their function is, we don’t know if they can walk if they can talk, or if they’re alive in a month or a year or ten years,” Associate Professor Pilcher said.
Researchers say their next step is following the progress of patients after their treatment.