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Blacks Seem More Vulnerable to Deadly Blood Infection
Date:6/22/2010

Study suggests higher rates of diabetes, kidney disease might explain why sepsis hits them harder

TUESDAY, June 22 (HealthDay News) -- Black patients are more likely to develop the life-threatening blood infection sepsis and have a greater chance of dying from it than whites, new research suggests.

In severe sepsis, a bacterial or fungal infection overwhelms the body's immune system, causing a disruption of normal processes in the blood. When this occurs, small blood clots form, blocking blood flow to the organs, which can lead to organ damage, organ failure and death.

Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh examined hospital discharge data from seven states in 2005 and emergency department visits during a five-year period between 2003-2007 from the National Hospital Ambulatory Care Survey. Of 8.6 million hospitalizations for reasons other than childbirth, they identified more than 2.2 million cases of infections. Of those, nearly 17 percent, or about 380,000, also involved organ dysfunction, a hallmark of severe sepsis.

The investigators found that black patients had a higher risk of being hospitalized for an infection than white patients. About 47 per 1,000 blacks were hospitalized due to infection, compared to 34 per 1,000 whites.

The greater incidence of infections translated into a higher risk for sepsis. Black patients had a 67 percent higher severe sepsis hospitalization rate than non-Hispanic whites -- the incidence was about 9.4 per 1,000 blacks compared to 5.6 per 1,000 whites.

Because blacks were both more likely to be hospitalized for an infection, and because severe sepsis occurred more frequently among blacks, black patients were 80 percent more likely to die from it, according to the study published in the June 23/30 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Severe sepsis sickens about 750,000 people in the United States each year. About 28
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