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Let’s unite for public interest – marking World Sepsis Day 2022 around the world

Attendees of World Sepsis Day poster competition at PIMS Hospital, Islamabad

World Sepsis Day (WSD) is a yearly event promoting awareness of sepsis, a major global health problem particularly affecting children in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). We spoke to our collaborators in three countries around the world – Bangladesh, Nigeria and Pakistan – to learn more about their work and how they raised awareness to mark WSD 2022.

Sepsis is a life-threatening illness that occurs when the body’s response to an infection damages its own tissues and organs. Sepsis is one of the leading causes of mortality worldwide and is associated with 1 in every 5 deaths. However, the burden of sepsis is not felt equally across the globe, with the majority of cases and deaths occurring in LMICs, particularly in newborn babies. Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) further worsens the burden of sepsis by rendering antibiotics ineffective, which means an infection is more likely to lead to sepsis. LMICs also suffer from greater AMR burden than their high-income counterparts, resulting in more cases of sepsis that are difficult to treat.

Despite representing such an important health problem, the true global burden of sepsis is difficult to quantify, owing in part to the limited information on cases available from LMICs. To better understand the burden of sepsis and AMR, the IOI is working alongside scientists and healthcare professionals in LMICs on two projects; BALANCE (exploring sepsis in children and adults) and BARNARDS (exploring sepsis in neonates). As part of these projects, local teams also work on raising awareness about what sepsis is and how it can be prevented, diagnosed or treated – including by marking WSD every year on September 13th. We caught up with our collaborators in Nigeria, Bangladesh, and Pakistan to find out how they marked WSD 2022 and why this day is important.


In Nigeria, WSD 2022 was celebrated in five centres throughout the country, including National Hospital Abuja, Murtala Mohammed Specialist Hospital Kano, University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital Enugu, Usmanu Danfodiyo University Teaching Hospital Sokoto and Massey Street Children Hospital, Lagos.

Team at Murtala Mohammed Specialist Hospital Kano, Nigeria

The teams led multiple activities throughout the hospitals, involving the Chief Executive Officers, as well as the heads of clinical departments, pharmacy, laboratory departments and public relations units. The involvement of staff spanning multiple medical disciplines echoed the importance of integrating different approaches and specialities into efforts to stop sepsis.

Staff spreading awareness of sepsis on children’s wards at Murtala Mohammed Specialist Hospital, Kanu

Dr Kenneth Iregbu, Head of Medical Microbiology, National Hospital Abuja, said “WSD was a very useful opportunity to draw the attention of health practitioners to the continuing burden of sepsis, and the need for all hands to be on deck to mitigate its negative impacts. We emphasised the need for improved hand hygiene, water and sanitation hygiene, prompt diagnosis, and timely, appropriate antibiotic treatment.”


In Bangladesh, the team from Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH) co-ordinated a workshop led by the hospital’s Director to encourage clinicians and nurses to reflect on what they can do to prevent sepsis. To draw attention to the importance of the day, the team also undertook a rally with a WSD banner, wearing t-shirts featuring the slogan ‘Stop Sepsis Save Lives’.

Workshop for clinicians and nurses at DMCH, Bangladesh raising awareness on sepsis prevention

Dr Refath Farzana, Scientific Lead for BALANCE said “The main message we tried to convey for WSD 2022 was “Let’s unite for public interest”. Sometimes there is lack of communication, even within a hospital, which creates additional challenges when dealing with a common problem. ‘Let’s unite’ is about promoting inter-departmental coordination to fight against sepsis, which will involve direct participation of the hospital admin team, doctors, nurses, medical students, microbiologists, technicians and other healthcare workers, bringing everyone together to maximise the health and wellbeing of the patients.”

‘Let’s unite’ is about promoting inter-departmental coordination to fight against sepsis.


In Pakistan, researchers from the Quaid-i-Azam University led an awareness symposium at the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS), in Islamabad. At the event, researchers and doctors gave their unique perspective on the challenges of sepsis, including talks from an epidemiologist, microbiologist and the Head of the Neonatology Department. The symposium was closed with a reflection on the struggle to treat sepsis when caused by antimicrobial-resistant bacteria.

WSD symposium attendees at Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences

There was also a poster competition involving students at Quaid-i-Azam University, which challenged participants to communicate the risks of sepsis in a clear, memorable way, emphasising that sepsis is preventable with awareness and quick action.

Poster competition to raise awareness of sepsis

Professor Rabaab Zahra, Professor of Microbiology at Quaid-i-Azam University, said “Too many neonatal and paediatric deaths are due to infections that lead to sepsis. These deaths are preventable. I think that WSD is important because it can serve as a joint call to action for the early diagnosis and management of sepsis.”

Together, these examples illustrate how the teams in Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Nigeria are not only essential for the two projects taking place in these countries but also crucial for building awareness about sepsis and improving its prevention, management and treatment. As summarised by Professor Tim Walsh, Director of Biology at the IOI and Professor of Medical Microbiology in the Department of Biology, who coordinates the BARNARDS and BALANCE projects:

“The observance of Sepsis Day by our international friends is a demonstration of their passion and commitment to addressing public awareness of this critical infection in highly vulnerable patients. It is heartening to see so many of the team involved, including many young scientists and clinical staff, all of whom are involved in the IOI’s multinational sepsis projects, BARNARDS (neonates) and BALANCE (adults). The commitment shown by our IOI international leads (Kenneth Iregbu, Zahra Modibbo, Rabaab Zara and Nazmul Haque - to name but a few) has been humbling and we are honoured to be part of a large international network that includes them. Their countries have large populations, sectors of extreme poverty, and poor management of sepsis, and thus we are fully committed to working with them to understand how we can better improve patient management and support diagnostics of sepsis in each of these countries.”