Mehreen Kisat, MBBS, MS, a surgeon-scientist and Assistant Professor in the Division of Acute Care and Regional General Surgery, was recently awarded the George H.A. Clowes Jr., MD, FACS, Memorial Research Career Development Award from the American College of Surgeons (ACS). The award provides $225,000 over five years to a promising young surgical investigator.
Kisat’s research will tackle the complicated issue of recognizing when antibiotics are required to treat sepsis in trauma patients.
“Sepsis is a life-threatening condition caused by the body’s extreme response to an infection, and it can lead to organ failure, tissue damage, and death,” said Kisat. “The challenge is that it can be hard to recognize sepsis in trauma patients because the natural way in which the body responds to the traumatic injury itself can mimic symptoms of sepsis.”
Due to the danger of sepsis, clinicians will often err on the side of caution by administering broad-spectrum antibiotics to trauma patients; however, when the patient is having an inflammatory response to injury and does not have an infection – or when the antibiotic that is administered is not the correct one for the type of infection the patient has – this practice can contribute to the growing problem of antibiotic (or antimicrobial) resistance.
Kisat’s lab is designing and evaluating ways to more rapidly identify patients with sepsis and to quickly pinpoint the type of infection-causing pathogen they have so clinicians can make more informed decisions about when and which antibiotics to administer. With funding from the ACS Clowes Award, she plans to focus on improving molecular and computational approaches to detect the DNA fragments of infection-causing bacteria in a patient’s blood.
“If we’re successful, this proof-of-concept study will help us enrich the signal-to-noise ratio so we can better distinguish infection-derived DNA fragments from other artifacts in the patient’s blood,” Kisat noted. “We can then use these findings to design a multi-site study with a larger number of patients to determine if these methods can rapidly diagnose sepsis.”
Ultimately, this research could improve outcomes for trauma patients who develop sepsis while simultaneously improving healthcare efforts to combat antimicrobial resistance.
Congratulations on your award, Dr. Kisat!