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Can we improve sepsis diagnosis and mortality prediction of critically ill patients in intensive care?

A postgraduate research opportunity at the University of Otago.


Close date
Friday, 19 February 2021
Academic background
Health Sciences
Host campus
Pathology and Biomedical Science (Christchurch)
Associate Professor Anitra Carr


Sepsis, the body’s uncontrolled response to severe infection, is difficult to diagnose in its early stages. Delayed recognition quickly leads to multi-system organ failure and, ultimately, death. Thus, early recognition and treatment of sepsis is critical for improved outcomes in critically ill patients. However, the diagnosis of sepsis is challenging and complicated by many factors. Therefore, there is a great need for new biomarkers that can aid in accurate diagnosis, therapeutic decision-making, and risk stratification. Accurate prediction of mortality in ICU patients is a crucial component of risk stratification and triage in times of resource shortage, such as the current COVID-19 pandemic.

One potentially useful biomarker for sepsis diagnosis and mortality prediction is myeloperoxidase, a leukocyte enzyme implicated in inflammation and oxidative stress. We recently published a study of critically ill patients in Christchurch Hospital ICU that indicated that myeloperoxidase was elevated in septic compared with non-septic patients. Myeloperoxidase was also associated with mortality in patients with higher Acute Physiologic Assessment and Chronic Health Evaluation (APACHE) scores, thus potentially comprising an additional marker to improve mortality prediction.

These initial results show great promise, therefore, our aims are to determine if the diagnosis of sepsis can be further improved using circulating myeloperoxidase in combination with another inflammatory biomarker, procalcitonin; to confirm in a larger ICU cohort if mortality prediction can be improved using myeloperoxidase in combination with APACHE scores; to determine the potential mechanism of action of myeloperoxidase by correlating levels with biomarkers of oxidative stress; and to determine if inflammatory and/or oxidative stress biomarkers can be attenuated with antioxidant administration to septic patients.

Preferred student expertise

Biochemistry, molecular biology, ELISA experience

Further information

This is one of a number of projects on offer for the 2021 intake of BBiomedSc(Hons) at the University of Otago, Christchurch campus.


Associate Professor Anitra Carr
Tel   +64 3 364 0649