Scientists have identified a gene that triggers sepsis. (Representational image)
Opening the door for the development of new treatment of the lethal disease sepsis, scientists have identified a gene that triggers the inflammatory condition.
Sepsis is a severe whole-body infection that occurs as a complication to an existing infection, and if not treated quickly can lead to septic shock and multiple organ failure, with death rates as high as 50 percent.
"This finding is a key that could potentially unlock our ability to shutdown this killer disease before it gets to a life-threatening stage," said study co-author Chris Goodnow from the Australian National University (ANU).
Researchers were aware that sepsis occurs when molecules known as lipopolysaccharides on the surface of some bacteria infiltrate cells, triggering an immune response that causes the cells to self-destruct.
But exactly how the self-destruct button was pressed remained a mystery.
The team found the protein Gasdermin-D plays a critical role in the pathway to sepsis.
The researchers then screened thousands of genes with a large-scale forward genetics discovery platform and in a little over a year isolated the gene that produces Gasdermin-D.
"Isolating the gene so quickly was a triumph for the team," professor Simon Foote, director of The John Curtin School of Medical Research (JCSMR) at ANU said.
The study was published in the journal Nature.