2 November 2021

World-first sepsis test could save thousands: Doctors hope new rapid test could help prevent tragic deaths

“Motivated by personal tragedy, Perth researchers are developing a world-first test to save patients from deadly blood infections.

Associate Professor Rakesh Veedu — Perron Institute McCusker Fellow based at Murdoch University’s Centre for Molecular Medicine and Innovative Therapeutics — understands this tragic reality better than most.

The West Australian newspaper highlighted a recent success of Associate Professor Rakesh Veedu (head of Nucleic Acid Therapeutics at Perron Institute and Centre for Molecular Medicine and Innovative Therapeutics, Murdoch University) and his team. Along with Dr Andrew Currie (CMMIT, Murdoch University) and their team, they have been funded $1million by the Federal Government for a sepsis test using aptamer technology from Professor Veedu’s lab.”Motivated by personal tragedy, Perth researchers are developing a world-first test to save patients from deadly blood infections.

Associate Professor Rakesh Veedu — Perron Institute McCusker Fellow based at Murdoch University’s Centre for Molecular Medicine and Innovative Therapeutics — understands this tragic reality better than most.

Three years ago, his 11-year-old niece died from the deadly blood infection.

“I know just how tragic it can be,” he said.

“She wasn’t diagnosed in time, and by the time she was in emergency it was too late because she was suffering from multiple organ failure.”

Funded by a $1 million “ideas grant” from the Federal Government, Dr Veedu is part of a team working on a fast-acting test to diagnose sepsis.

“It’s very difficult to diagnose sepsis at the moment,” said Dr Andrew Currie — a senior research fellow and lecturer in Immunology at Murdoch. Dr Currie is a lead researcher on the project.

“There are no solid tools that a clinician can use, just guidelines and suggestions,” he said. “But we have to do better.”

Dr Currie is working to identify patterns of biological markers, like elevated protein levels in someone’s blood, that indicate a sepsis infection.

Currently, doctors rely on expensive and slow laboratory technology to find these “biomarkers.”

“This is where the breakthrough is,” Dr Currie said.

“Using Rakesh’s technology, we can find those markers much more quickly – potentially within seconds.

“With sepsis, time is the enemy, so this could save many, many lives.”

The test will use aptamers – short, single-stranded DNA or RNA molecules that can bind to specific blood proteins – to identify the signs of sepsis in the body.

“In very simple terms, it works like a lock and key,” Associate Professor Veedu said.

“You have a ‘lock’ in your blood plasma sample, and the aptamer acts like the ‘key’ to open it up. It can pinpoint and detect the protein, and if you have high levels you may have sepsis.”

Read the full West Australian newspaper article here

L-R: Dr Andrew Currie and A/Prof Rakesh Veedu. Image credit: CMMIT/Murdoch University.