A chance discovery by a medic working at Eastern Virginia Medical School
could be the basis of a cure for sepsis. The discovery could lead to
thousands of lives being saved each year.
The serendipitous discovery was made by Paul Marik, who is the Chief of Critical Care at the Eastern Virginia Medical School
. He made his findings while looking after patients at the Sentara Norfolk General Hospital in Norfolk, Virginia, U.S.
The discovery takes the form of mix of three compounds: vitamin C,
steroids (hydrocortisone) and thiamine. These, when combined, are
designed to be administered intravenously. To test out the combination,
Dr. Marik used two groups, both treated in the same ICU, one before the
use of the compound and the other after the use of the compound. Prior
to the treatment (the first group) 19 of 47 patients diagnosed with
sepsis died from the disease. With the group given the compound, there
were no deaths from sepsis (based on a patient population of the same
size – 47 people). Patients with sepsis showed signs of recovery within a
few hours of the treatment. The treatment was also assessed by running
laboratory studies. This involved testing the mixture against human lung
Sepsis is a life-threatening condition
that arises when the body's response to infection injures its own
tissues and organs. Symptoms consist of fever, increased heart rate,
increased breathing rate, and confusion. With the elderly, young people
and those who are immunocompromised, the body temperature may be lower.
Risk of death arises with severe sepsis, which leads to poor organ
function or reduced blood flow. Sepsis remains a very common cause of
death among hospitalized patients, generally arising from bacterial
blood stream infections.
The basis of the new compound was that septic patients have little or
undetectable levels of vitamin C in their cells. Understanding this Dr.
Marik began to prepare his new mixture. Thiamine is added because it
assists cells to absorb vitamin C. An added benefit is that the mixture
is inexpensive to manufacture, coming in around $60 per treatment.
Commenting on the new study, Dr. Richard Homan, who is the president of the Eastern Virginia Medical School said
“Dr. Marik has developed a brilliant and elegantly simple hypothesis in
the treatment of sepsis. The implications of the findings of this study
are profound and, if replicated, may transform the treatment of sepsis