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Omega-3s may fight sepsis

New research in mice suggests polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAS) may help treat sepsis.

Researchers have found hope in a new treatment for one of medicine’s oldest and trickiest syndromes. A new rodent study suggested polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) could be useful for treating sepsis, a potentially life-threatening complication of an infection.

Hippocrates claimed sepsis was the process by which flesh rots, swamps generate foul airs and wounds fester, wrote Derek Angus in the New England Journal of Medicine last year in an article about the condition. While the Greek physician was on target when he spoke about the wretched effects of condition, the ensuing centuries of medicine haven’t brought as much clarity to sepsis as one might think. The condition can lead to weight loss, organ failure and death. Between 28 and 50 percent of people who get sepsis die, according to the CDC. The global incidence of sepsis and septic shock has increased of the past two decades and is predicted to continue to rise over the next 20 years, according to the NEJM article.

Sepsis is related to inflammation. Omega-3s have been shown to help with inflammation-related disease. So, researchers tested the fatty acids on mice induced with sepsis to see if the they might help.

The septic mice dropped a dramatic amount of body weight in two days. Treated with n-3PUFAS, the mice not only stopped losing weight, but they started gaining it back. Their weight returned to baseline within a week. The rodents treated with the PUFAs also exhibited markedly lower levels of inflammatory cytokines. The scientists’ results, they wrote in the journal Marine Drugs, “highlight the therapeutic potential of n-3 PUFA in the management of sepsis.”

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