It's hard not to get excited about news of a potentially effective treatment for sepsis, a condition that leads to multiple organ failure and kills more people in the hospital than any other disease.
But there have been so many false promises about this condition over the years, it's also wise to treat announcements — like one published online by the journal, Chest — with caution.
The study, from Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk, Va., reported some remarkable success in treating patients who were at high risk of sudden death.
The story began in January, 2016, when Dr. Paul Marik was running the intensive care unit at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital. A 48-year-old woman came in with a severe case of sepsis — inflammation frequently triggered by an overwhelming infection.
"Her kidneys weren't working. Her lungs weren't working. She was going to die," Marik said. "In a situation like this, you start thinking out of the box."
Marik had recently read a study by researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. Dr. Berry Fowler and his colleagues had shown some moderate success in treating people who had sepsis with intravenous vitamin C.
Marik decided to give it a try. He added in a low dose of corticosteroids, which are sometimes used to treat sepsis, along with a bit of another vitamin, thiamine. His desperately ill patient got an infusion of this mixture.