Babies Issue a Genetic ‘S.O.S.’ That Can Be Used to Detect Sepsis

Photo: Bethany Petrik/Getty Images

At the moment, there’s no simple, reliable test for bacterial infections like sepsis — infections that can be very hard to detect, and which can kill young children when they go untreated. But new research from the University of Edinburgh suggests that the DNA of infected kids issues an alarm signal of sorts that doctors could use to identify these infections before it’s too late.

Tests based on this new finding would require only a drop of blood. The press release has the details:

The University of Edinburgh team has identified a signal consisting of 52 molecular characters – like a biological tweet – that is specific to bacterial infection.

The researchers, who have spent the past decade trying to unravel the complexities of blood poisoning and its treatment among premature and full-term babies, say that the genome’s signal provides critical, immediate information on the infection.

Using blood samples from newborn babies in Edinburgh, the study investigated thousands of signals written in biological code known as messenger RNAs.

Through meticulous code-breaking the scientists were able to decipher with close to 100 per cent accuracy the signals generated by an infant’s genome that specifically tell that they are suffering from sepsis.

Given the preponderance of terrible events lately, I’m all for more research breakthroughs of the baby-saving variety.

A New Way to ID a Dangerous Infection in Infants