Irish researchers are close to developing a drug which may be able to prevent patients with the deadly condition sepsis from suffering multiple organ failure.
The early-stage research from the Royal College of Surgeons (RCSI), which is still at pre-clinical stage, could lead to the first non-antibiotic treatment for sepsis.
Sepsis is a relatively rare but serious complication of infection, which needs a quick response to stop multiple organ failure and death.
It kills 3,000 people in Ireland every year but can be treated using antibiotics if caught early.
However, in many cases antibiotics are not effective due to drug resistance or delays in identifying the type of bacteria that has caused the infection.
It means there is a need for a non-antibiotic therapy that can be used at all stages of infection against all bacterial causes of sepsis.
The findings relating to the pre-clinical trial of the drug, known as InnovoSep, were presented to the college's annual research meeting yesterday.
"There is only a short window of opportunity for treatment of sepsis with the early administration of antibiotics and fluid," said principal investigator and inventor of InnovoSep, Professor Steve Kerrigan.
"Our research has shown the InnovoSep candidate drug can prevent sepsis progression early or indeed treat advanced sepsis.
The drug appears to act by preventing the bacteria from getting into the bloodstream from the site of infection by stabilising the blood vessels so that they cannot leak bacteria and infect major organs.
"The promising results of the InnovoSep pre-clinical trial gives hope for a new non-antibiotic treatment of this condition that could be effective in both the early and more advanced stages of sepsis," Prof Kerrigan added.
The findings come after the heartbroken family of a Finglas teenager who died from sepsis succeeded in getting a health awareness campaign on to the Dublin Bus network, in the hope that more people will become aware of the dangers of the killer illness.
Sean Hughes, known as 'Lil Red', was only 15 when he died in Temple Street Hospital last year.
His family was "hugely grateful" to Dublin Bus for putting up the Lil Red's Legacy posters, which describe the symptoms of sepsis so that people can become more familiar with them.