​​​What Is Sepsis?

Sepsis is a potentially life-threatening condition that can occur when a person’s immune system no longer functions correctly. Infections, serious injury, or other insults to the body can cause a person to develop sepsis, which affects the whole body and can lead to organ failure and, in some cases, death.

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Top: Text over a silhouetted map of the United States that reads, More than 1.7 million people get sepsis each year in the United States. Bottom: Text over a background silhouette of people that reads, Nearly 270,000 Americans die from sepsis each year. Credit: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2021.

A Serious Health Problem

Each year, according to CDC, at least 1.7 million adults in the U.S. develop sepsis, and nearly 270,000 die as a result. Sepsis is a leading cause of death in hospitals and a main reason why people are readmitted to the hospital.

Who Gets Sepsis?

Anyone can develop sepsis. However, the people at greatest risk include the young and the older, as well as people with underlying health conditions such as diabetes, AIDS, cancer, or liver disease. Concurrent injuries, recent surgery, and consumption of medicines that suppress the immune system also make people more likely to develop sepsis.


NIGMS Biomedical Beat Blog promotion.  

Biomedical Beat blog posts related to sepsis.

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A researcher holding a pipette over a specimen tray.  

A report that recommends future directions for NIGMS-funded research on sepsis.

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NIGMS Educational Resources

The cover of Pathways: The Superbugs Issue.  

Issue of Pathways student magazine focused on the basics of infectious diseases (grades 6-12).

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The silhouette of the United States, with text that reads, More than 1.7 million.  

A visual summary of the definition and causes of sepsis, along with NIGMS-funded sepsis research.

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Other Resources

  • Sepsis (MedlinePlus, NIH). Basic information, research, resources, and patient handouts..
  • Sepsis (CDC). Information for patients, their families, and health care professionals, as well as statistics on sepsis.
  • Surviving Sepsis Campaign. Guidelines for medical professionals on adult and child sepsis care, as well as tools and educational opportunities.
  • Sepsis Alliance. Sepsis basics, education for patients and health care professionals, and advocacy.

This page last updated on 6/25/2024 3:30 PM