Research Achievements  

Research Providing Novel Sepsis Treatment Draws International Recognition

A team of scientists at the NTU Hospital Department of Emergency Medicine has provided evidence that opens up a novel direction for the treatment of sepsis. The major public health significance of the team's research findings has been recognized by the international academic community.

One of the team's research papers was awarded one of three “best abstract” awards presented at the European Society of Intensive Care Medicine (ESICM) EuroAsia Conference 2017. Presented by Resident Physician Cheng-Heng Liu, the paper was selected from over 450 paper submissions from medical researchers in over than 40 countries. Held in Hong Kong in early April, the conference was the first ESICM conference to be held outside of Europe.

Meanwhile, another of the team's papers is slated for publication in the British Journal of Anesthesia, the most respected journal in the field of anesthesiology and emergency medicine. The paper's first author is research fellow Meng-TzeGabriel Lee, its statistician is Monica Zi-Jun Hsu, and its corresponding author is attending physician Chien-Chang Lee.

Sepsis is one of the major causes of death and is occurring at an increasing rate. In Taiwan, hundreds of thousands of people end up in intensive care units because of sepsis every year. Despite the enormous resources invested in research, death rates remain as high as 20% to 59%.

HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors, commonly known as statins, are the first line of treatment to lower blood lipid levels in clinical use. Scientists have discovered that, besides their ability to reduce blood lipid levels, statins also possess anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties. Such findings have led drug makers and clinical physicians to aggressively investigate the use of statins in the clinical treatment of sepsis over the last two decades. However, the research has produced inconsistent conclusions.

Recent in vitro studies have found that not every statin has the same antibiotic effect. Statins that are naturally derived, such as simvastatin, produce a stronger antibiotic effect than do man-made statins like rosuvastatin.

Using a rigorous research methodology, the researchers discovered a 28% reduction in mortality rate from sepsis for patients who took the naturally-derived statin simvastatin prior to the emergence of sepsis compared to patients who did not use the drug. However, the team did not observe a significant improvement in mortality for patients who were prescribed the synthetic statin rosuvastatin.

This research is the first ever to provide evidence that simvastatin limits the risk of death from sepsis. Moreover, the ability of the naturally-derived statin to lower mortality from sepsis is unrelated to the degree to which it reduces blood lipid levels. The team's findings imply that different types of statins possess different mechanisms that provide protection against sepsis.