UF College of Medicine approves designated Sepsis and Critical Illness Research Center

The University of Florida College of Medicine has approved a designated Sepsis and Critical Illness Research Center. The center stems from a UF department of surgery-led initiative established in 2014 through a $12 million grant from the National Institutes of Health, and builds on clinical and translational research that began with the original sepsis research program.

“Designation as an official center allows us to more easily and more broadly collaborate with other centers and institutes at the University of Florida,” said Lyle Moldawer, Ph.D., a professor and vice chair of research in the department of surgery. “We are seeing immediate benefits in our research efforts through many projects. For instance, a collaboration with the McKnight Brain Institute allows us access to imaging resources to study cognitive decline in people who survive sepsis.”

Sepsis, which can be deadly, is an illness or complication in which the body has a severe overwhelming response to infection. That response can induce tissue damage, organ failure and death. What differentiates sepsis from infection is the significant host response to an infectious virus, bacteria, fungus or parasite. It is currently the most expensive condition treated in U.S. hospitals, with annual costs exceeding $20 billion, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

”The early care of sepsis has improved dramatically, and in-hospital mortality has decreased substantially. Unfortunately, the majority of sepsis survivors progress into chronic critical illness, or CCI, characterized by prolonged stays on intensive care units, cognitive and functional disabilities, sepsis relapse, discharge to long-term health care or rehabilitation facilities, and death,” said Frederick A. Moore, M.D., FACS, MCCM, a professor and chief of the division of acute care surgery.

Specifically, UF Health clinical and basic science researchers recognized a new predominant type of CCI that is occurring with an increased frequency in surgical ICUs — persistent inflammation, immunosuppression and catabolism syndrome, or PICS — for which there are no effective interventions and clinical outcomes are poor.

“We are the first team-science program in the nation to study CCI and PICS after sepsis. It provides the vital infrastructure to seriously pursue research of this currently insurmountable problem,” Moore said. “Despite the massive increase in its occurrence, little — if anything — is known regarding the natural history, etiology, costs, potential therapeutic modalities and long-term outcomes.”

The UF sepsis center plans to expand the scope of research into other critically ill populations (including severe trauma, cancer, premature infants and subjects undergoing complex surgical procedures); extend collaboration within UF Health and the greater university faculty; promote education of health care professionals and the lay community on the sepsis epidemic; improve patient care; and foster external fundraising, philanthropy and advocacy initiatives.

The sepsis center includes faculty from the UF College of Medicine (emergency medicine, pulmonary medicine, aging, surgery, anesthesiology, infectious disease, and health outcomes and policy); the UF College of Nursing; the UF College of Pharmacy; the UF College of Engineering; and the UF College of Public Health and Health Professions.