Disrupting body's microbiome increases risk of sepsis, study finds

A new study from Veterans Affairs and the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor suggests routine hospital stays can upset the balance of microbes in the human body so much that it increases the risk of sepsis in older adult patients.

Researchers analyzed data from more than 43,000 hospital stays by nearly 11,000 older Americans over a 12-year period.

Highlighted below are three findings from the study.

1. Older adults are three times more likely to develop sepsis in the first 90 days after leaving a hospital than at any other time.

2. The risk of sepsis in the three-month, post-hospital period is 30 percent higher for people whose original hospital stay involved care for any type of infection, and 70 percent higher for those who were being treated for a Clostridium difficile infection.

3. Approximately one in 10 C. diff survivors end up with sepsis within three months of their hospital stay.

According to lead author and U-M critical care physician Hallie Prescott, MD, the study findings could mean that disruption to the microbiome in the hospital may predispose older people to get sepsis later, which is different from what was already known about the acute and chronic effects of microbiome disruption.

"While more work is needed to explore this further, it also opens the possibility that we might be able to prevent sepsis — by doing something as simple as helping the microbiome recover rapidly from a hospitalization," said Dr. Prescott.

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