Bacteremia and sepsis are critically important syndromes with high mortality, morbidity, and associated costs. Bloodstream infections and sepsis are among the top causes of mortality in the US, with >600 deaths each day. Most septic patients can be found in emergency medicine departments or critical care units, settings in which rapid administration of targeted antibiotic therapy can reduce mortality. Unfortunately, routine blood cultures are not rapid enough to aid in the decision of therapeutic intervention at the onset of bacteremia. As a result, empiric, broad-spectrum treatment is common-a costly approach that may fail to target the correct microbe effectively, may inadvertently harm patients via antimicrobial toxicity, and may contribute to the evolution of drug-resistant microbes. To overcome these challenges, laboratorians must understand the complexity of diagnosing and treating septic patients, focus on creating algorithms that rapidly support decisions for targeted antibiotic therapy, and synergize with existing emergency department and critical care clinical practices put forth in the Surviving Sepsis Guidelines.
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