Everyone knows the names of big killers like cancer, heart disease and stroke, but few people are aware of one of the biggest killers - sepsis. Sepsis is a life-threatening condition. Doctors say it is responsible for one in five deaths worldwide. Sepsis happens when our body's response to an infection injures our own organs. Our body normally releases chemicals into the blood to fight an infection. Sepsis occurs when the body releases too many of these chemicals. The chemicals overload our organs and damage them. This damage can lead to organ failure and death. Doctors have traditionally called this blood poisoning. More than half of the sepsis cases reported worldwide occur in children, many of whom are newborn babies.
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A study into sepsis was published on January the 16th in the medical journal "The Lancet". Researchers estimated that over 50 million people a year develop sepsis and over 20 per cent die from the illness. This is more than double the percentage previously estimated. The researchers said sepsis kills more people than cancer. Professor Mohsen Naghavi, a senior author of the research, said: "We are alarmed to find sepsis deaths are much higher than previously estimated, especially as the condition is both preventable and treatable." He said more research is needed to stop sepsis killing newborns. Doctors can treat sepsis with antibiotics if the condition is found early.