The New Antiseptics

Two novel approaches to an ancient scourge could someday protect millions from runaway infections

Sepsis, which is what happens to the body when an infection goes bad, is one of mankind's oldest and most intractable foes. It attacks 500,000 Americans annually and kills nearly half of them; around the world, about 1,500 people die from septic shock every day. Now help may be on the way. A new drug has stopped the progression of sepsis in clinical trials of dangerously ill victims, while another shows promise of halting the disease before it gets out of control.

The deadly agents of sepsis are so-called endotoxins, poisons produced by bacteria infecting the body through wounds, burns or...

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