Newly identified biomarkers may help identify those most likely to die from blood infections

Illustration shows blood vessel cross-section of person with bacteremia, or presence of bacteria in blood.

Researchers have identified a collective signature of proteins and metabolites associated with death due to Staphylococcus aureus bacteremia — a bacterial infection in the blood that kills 20 to 30 percent of patients who contract it. In the lab, scientists say these molecular indicators, or biomarkers, can predict who is at highest risk of dying from the infection with exceptional accuracy.

In the study, the team describes one of the most comprehensive molecular assessments of blood serum from any human infection response to date. The researchers analyzed more than 10,000 proteins and metabolites in more than 200 serum samples collected from the blood of patients with S. aureus bacteremia. They also validated their findings in mouse models of the disease.

The team identified a specific pattern of proteins that differed in the serum of patients who ultimately died of S. aureus bacteremia compared to those who did not. The findings could lead to a new point-of-care tool for predicting risk of death from blood infections so that at-risk patients can be treated more aggressively, they say. The study, funded in part by NHLBI, appeared in the journal Cell.

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