As sepsis is caused by an infection, most often by bacteria, but sometimes by fungi or protozoa (such as malaria). Preventing infection is the best way to prevent sepsis.
Modern medicine saves lives, but increases the risk of sepsis
Many of the advances in modern medicine actually weaken our immune system, paving the way for severe illnesses like sepsis. These include cancer-fighting agents (chemotherapeutics) and some drugs used to treat severe rheumatism, gastro-intestinal illnesses, or to suppress the body's rejection of an organ transplant, amongst them cortisone. People with diabetes or chronic disease of the liver or the kidneys are also at greater risk. Furthermore, the advances in modern medicine like minimal-invasive surgery and improved intensive care make it possible to perform major surgery in older patients, putting them at a higher risk of infection and sepsis compared to younger patients. These patients at risk need specific care and caution, including education and regular screening.
VACCINATING CHILDREN PROTECTS THEM AND THEIR FAMILIES
Small children and the elderly are more susceptible to infection by pneumococcus bacteria. This can lead to pneumonia, middle ear infections, sinusitis, meningitis – and to sepsis. Today there are effective vaccines for small children that lead to immunity to major pneumococcus pathogens. Vaccinating small children leads to a greater mechanism known as "herd immunity", disrupting chains of infection and resulting in fewer pneumococcus infections even among those not vaccinated, especially the parents’ and even more the grandparents’ generation.
Patients with no spleen must be vaccinated and educated on their risk of infection
Vaccinations against pneumococcus bacteria, as well as meningococcus and haemophilus bacteria, are particularly important for patients who have lost their spleen or who were born without a fully functioning spleen. These people have a far greater risk of developing sepsis, and this risk remains throughout their lives. Unfortunately, most of these people have not been properly vaccinated against the bacteria that can trigger sepsis, and have not been educated about their risk. They also require prophylactic treatment with antibiotics before surgery, which is frequently overlooked.
The indiscriminate use of antibiotics must be stopped
Another step in reducing the number of deaths resulting from sepsis is preventing bacterial resistance to antibiotics. The excessive use of antibiotics in outpatient care over the past several years, for example for viral infections, where antibiotics are useless and harmful, has led to a drastic increase in antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The highly questionable use of antibiotics in factory farming encourages the development of multi-resistant pathogens for which hardly any effective antibiotics exist. This applies to bacteria on the skin (gram-positive bacteria, e.g. MRSA), but even more to fecal bacteria (gram-negative bacteria, e.g. ESBL). The danger posed by bacteria on the skin (MRSA) is vastly overestimated, as they can be treated quite easily in most cases. Appropriate steps in preventing resistance include the targeted and prudent use of antibiotics, and especially during hospital stays the limitation of the duration of treatment to the minimum. Unfortunately, hardly any new, effective antibiotics have been developed over the last years. That's why we support every measure that contributes to the intelligent and streamlined use of antibiotics in medical care and in farming.
Sanitation and clean delivery is a human right
Insufficient hygiene conditions in resource-poor areas for giving birth, treating wounds, and in healthcare facilities in general are a tremendous problem. In some parts of the world, unsanitary facilities or contaminated water cause severe infections in the digestive system, which often end in deadly cases of sepsis. It is of note that even in developed countries, where general standards of hygiene are higher, infections by insufficient hygiene are responsible for tens of thousands of preventable deaths of sepsis per year worldwide. That's why one of our key starting points is the promotion of hand hygiene and good general hygiene practices, clean deliveries, improvements in sanitation and nutrition, the delivery of clean water, as well as vaccination programs for patient populations at risk in resource-poor areas.