Next Stage of Human Trials for Innovative Sepsis Treatment

by Santiago Fernandez
sepsis treatment

An advanced treatment for sepsis involving sodium ascorbate, a type of Vitamin C, has shown promising outcomes in clinical trials. This new phase of trials, expanding across several Australian locations, has marked notable improvements in patient conditions, such as enhanced kidney function and reduced reliance on additional medications. This development, a culmination of extensive research, presents a beacon of hope for treating a critical condition prevalent in intensive care units worldwide.

The Florey Institute, alongside intensive care experts from a partnering hospital, have validated the efficacy of sodium ascorbate in sepsis management.

The Florey Institute’s researchers have initiated a new phase of clinical trials in Australia to assess a unique sodium ascorbate formula they developed to combat sepsis. 

Critical Care journal recently published results from an initial trial at Melbourne’s Austin Hospital, indicating that sodium ascorbate is effective in sepsis treatment.

Associate Professor Yugeesh Lankadeva, the study’s lead researcher, has commented on the complexities and high mortality rates associated with sepsis treatment.

Florey Institute’s Professor Clive May, Austin Health’s intensive care specialist Professor Rinaldo Bellomo, and Associate Professor Lankadeva have acknowledged sodium ascorbate’s potential in sepsis therapy. Credit: The Florey

Complexities in Sepsis Management

“Sepsis contributes to 35–50 percent of all hospital fatalities. It’s triggered when the immune system can’t counter an infection, leading to drastic blood pressure drops, multiple organ failures, and death,” explained Associate Professor Lankadeva. The Austin Hospital trial showed significant organ improvements in patients administered sodium ascorbate intravenously.

Associate Professor Lankadeva, heading The Florey’s Systems Neuroscience Theme, stated that the next phase of the $4.9 million government-funded research will extend to intensive care units in several Australian cities.

This phase will involve 300 adult patients with sepsis, who will receive either the sodium ascorbate formula or a placebo, along with standard hospital care.

Special Sodium Ascorbate Formulation

Professor Rinaldo Bellomo, Austin Hospital’s Director of Intensive Care Research, detailed the previous trial phase involving 30 adult sepsis patients. The patients, under intensive care, were randomly assigned to either the sodium ascorbate treatment or a placebo.

The findings revealed that patients treated with sodium ascorbate:

had improved kidney function, indicated by increased urine production
needed less noradrenaline, a drug used for blood pressure management
exhibited better multi-organ functionality.

“Sepsis is a leading cause of death in intensive care units globally,” Professor Bellomo noted, emphasizing the rapid onset and severity of the condition.

Decades-Long Research Fruits

Professor Clive May, a senior researcher at Florey, has dedicated over two decades to studying sepsis-induced organ failure, especially in the brain and kidneys.

“Our research highlighted sodium ascorbate as a potential sepsis treatment, following observations of decreased tissue oxygen levels during sepsis.

Preclinical studies have shown remarkable recovery rates with high-dose sodium ascorbate, devoid of adverse effects. It’s gratifying to see our prolonged research efforts leading to a viable patient treatment,” said Professor May.

A Sepsis Survivor’s Account

Brett Purcell, a long-serving Florey staff member and a sepsis survivor, offers a unique perspective as a consumer representative on the MEGASCORES research program. 

Purcell recounts his 2011 hospitalization due to early-stage sepsis, which escalated to septic shock and a severely infected heart, post an aortic valve replacement. He credits the surgical team’s decision-making and intensive care for his survival, following life support and dialysis treatments.

His recovery after an eight-week hospital stay underscores his hope that sodium ascorbate research will equip hospitals with a less invasive, swift, and effective tool against sepsis. 

Reference: “Mega-dose sodium ascorbate: a pilot, single-dose, physiological effect, double-blind, randomized, controlled trial” by Fumitaka Yanase et al., 12 October 2023, Critical Care.
DOI: 10.1186/s13054-023-04644-x

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about sepsis treatment

What is the new treatment for sepsis being tested in Australia?

The new treatment for sepsis being tested in Australia involves sodium ascorbate, a pH-balanced formulation of Vitamin C. This innovative approach has shown promising results in clinical trials, indicating significant improvements in kidney function and reduced dependence on other drugs for sepsis patients.

Who is conducting the research on this new sepsis treatment?

The research on this new sepsis treatment is being conducted by the Florey Institute in collaboration with intensive care clinicians from a hospital. Associate Professor Yugeesh Lankadeva, along with Professor Clive May and Professor Rinaldo Bellomo, are key figures in this research.

What were the findings of the initial clinical trial at Austin Hospital?

The initial clinical trial at Austin Hospital in Melbourne found that patients with sepsis who received the sodium ascorbate treatment showed improved kidney function, required less noradrenaline for blood pressure management, and exhibited better multi-organ functionality.

How does sepsis affect patients, and why is this research significant?

Sepsis, often leading to drastic blood pressure drops, multiple organ failures, and death, contributes to 35–50 percent of all hospital fatalities. This research is significant as it offers a potential new treatment method that could improve survival rates and outcomes for patients suffering from this life-threatening condition.

What does the next phase of the research involve?

The next phase of the research involves expanding the clinical trials to include 300 adult septic patients across various Australian cities. These patients will receive either the sodium ascorbate formulation or a placebo, in addition to standard hospital care, to further assess the treatment’s effectiveness.

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TechGuy45 December 17, 2023 - 1:46 pm

$4.9 million in funding, thats a lot. hope the money’s well spent and we see some real results.

Mike_Johnson December 17, 2023 - 4:23 pm

wow, this is really something, sepsis has been such a problem for so long, great to see some progress!

Dave_the_skeptic December 17, 2023 - 10:04 pm

hmm, sounds promising but lets see the results from the larger trials. always cautious with these early studies.

HealthGuru101 December 18, 2023 - 1:06 am

Sodium ascorbate? That’s just vitamin C right? Interesting use of a common supplement for such a critical condition.

Julia_RN December 18, 2023 - 4:48 am

As a nurse, seeing advancements in sepsis treatment is heartening. We’ve lost too many patients to this. Fingers crossed!

Sarah87 December 18, 2023 - 7:49 am

Amazing news! My uncle had sepsis last year, was scary, hope this treatment becomes available soon.


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