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NICE set to reject new sepsis tests for routine NHS use

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The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence has decided not to recommend three new blood tests designed to improve treatment for sepsis.

The tests, which help identify bacteria and fungi in the bloodstream, aim to provide a much quicker way of pinpointing the cause of infections that lead to sepsis, a major cause of deaths in hospital.

“There was too much uncertainty in the accuracy of the tests for clinicians to be able to base a decision on whether to withdraw or continue antibiotics”

Carole Longson

However, in draft guidance now out for public consultation, NICE said there was not enough evidence of the benefits to recommend them for routine use in the NHS.

Patients who develop sepsis are generally treated with powerful antibiotics that act against most likely causes of infection.

However, the use of such “broad spectrum” antibiotics increases the risk of the rise of new superbugs resistant to treatment.

The tests in question are the LightCycler SeptiFast Test MGRADE, SepsiTest and IRIDICA BAC BSI assay.

By identifying the DNA of bacteria and fungi, they can help spot infection-causing pathogens within hours compared to the days generally need to complete traditional tests where cultures are grown in the lab.

This in turn could lead to patients getting more targeted treatment sooner, aiding their recovery.

While NICE recognised the potential clinical benefits, it said more research was needed.

“Although the rapid molecular test might provide results more quickly, there was too much uncertainty in the accuracy of the tests for clinicians to be able to base a decision on whether to withdraw or continue antibiotics,” said Professor Carole Longson, director of the NICE Health Technology Evaluation Centre.

The closing date for comments on the draft guidance is 21 October.

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