LIFE-saving research to provide early detection of an illness which kills millions of people each year is being pioneered by academics at Teesside University.

The £1.3m CE-microArray project, which is being led by the campus in Middlesbrough, has the potential to dramatically reduce the amount of time it takes to diagnose patients at risk of developing sepsis, one of the most common causes of death in hospitalised patients.

The project is being carried out under the EU Seventh Framework programme (FP7) and is being co-ordinated by Dr Meez Islam, a Reader in Physical Chemistry in the School of Science & Engineering at Teesside University.

One of the eight European partners in the initiative is Anasyst, a company specialising in novel analytical systems which was spun out of Teesside University research.

Sepsis is a life-threatening illness caused by the body’s overreaction to an infection and can be triggered either directly by infection or may occur after medical treatment or surgery.

It is estimated that nearly 20,000 people die each day from sepsis worldwide and it is the cause of approximately half a million deaths in Europe each year.

Existing methods of diagnosing sepsis involve analysing blood culture and can take up to 72 hours.

The CE-microArray project plans to use ‘cavity enhanced absorption spectroscopy’ to provide more sensitive, reliable and speedier diagnoses of patients at risk of developing sepsis.

The technique involves improving the sensitivity of blood tests which are based on the absorption of light by passing light many times through the sample.

Dr Islam said: “At the end of this project, we hope to have novel ways of testing for sepsis which could have a massive impact across the world.

“We’ve seen that it can work in specialised cases and anything that can speed up the diagnosis times and start treatment earlier, even by a small amount, could potentially save thousands of lives each year.

Professor Zulf Ali, the Dean of Teesside University’s Graduate Research School, and CEO of Anasyst, added: “This is an extremely prestigious project for Teesside University which could have enormous benefits worldwide.

“It showcases the high quality research which is done at Teesside and the way in which we can work with the healthcare industry to provide practical solutions to global problems.”