Septic shock is a life-threatening condition that kills 50 percent of the people it afflicts. Antibiotics are the current preferred treatment method, but scientists agree that these medications might not be cutting it. So now doctors are introducing blood-sifting magnets.
When would these life-saving magnets come into play? Well, hopefully you’ve never had to experience sepsis, but it’s a common condition that afflicts over 200,000 Americans every year (and according to the Mayo Clinic, this number is increasing). When you have an illness like pneumonia or a kidney infection, there’s a chance that the chemicals your body releases into your bloodstream for fighting the infection will trigger inflammation. This inflammation turns into sepsis, prompting a plethora of complications throughout your body.
Here are the symptoms of all three stages of sepsis:
1. Sepsis: Significantly high or low body temperature; heart rate higher than 90 beats a minute; respiratory rate of higher than 20 breaths a minute
2. Severe sepsis: Significantly decreased urine output; abrupt change in mental status; decreased platelet count; difficulty breathing; abnormal heart pumping; abdominal pain
3. Septic shock: The symptoms of severe sepsis, as well as low blood pressure that doesn’t respond to fluid replacement
If septic shock becomes severe enough, blood can flood your vital organs or create blood clots in your organs and extremities. So why are these newfangled magnets better than common antibiotics?
HOW THESE MAGNETS COULD TRUMP ANTIBIOTICS??
Researchers from Harvard University and the Empa research group and Adolphe Merkle Institute are responsible for the discovery of this unique new way to cleanse the harmful bacteria from your blood. How does it work? According to Engadget, the researchers “coated antibodies that bind to harmful bacteria with iron particles.” When exposed to the bacteria, the antibodies latched onto them. Then, the solution was passed through a dialysis machine where the magnets pulled the antibodies and their bad bacteria buddies out of the blood. Squeaky clean.
Is there a catch? Kind of. Each antibody attaches to a specific type of bacteria. This means that patients with multiple pathogens (bacteria that can cause viruses) must go through several rounds of treatment. However, Harvard is currently working on a synthetic anti-body that will be “one-size-fits all.” Thank you, science.
References: (1) https://www.engadget.com/2016/12/08/doctors-sift-bacteria-from-blood-with-magnets/ (2) https://www.engadget.com/2016/12/07/bacteria-resists-last-ditch-antibiotics/ (3) https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/sepsis/symptoms-causes/syc-20351214 (4) https://pubs.rsc.org/en/content/articlelanding/2016/tb/c6tb01272h (5) https://www.engadget.com/2016/12/08/doctors-sift-bacteria-from-blood-with-magnets/