The Link Between COVID-19 and Sepsis

COVID-19 and sepsis go hand in hand for COVID-19 patients who are hospitalized in the ICU. For the seriously ill, COVID-19 is much more than a respiratory infection. SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, can impact multiple organs—not just the respiratory tract. This multi-organ dysfunction is essentially the definition of sepsis.

Sepsis is a body’s extreme, life-threatening immune response to an infection. This immune response results in multi-organ dysfunction that can escalate to tissue damage, organ failure, and even death.

“In COVID-19 sepsis, the infection is the virus, and the life-threatening organ dysfunction is all the organs that can dysfunction, including lungs, brain, kidneys, heart, and liver. These are all organs that are classically associated with sepsis. COVID-19 that causes organ dysfunction is viral sepsis,” said Steven Simpson, MD, professor of pulmonary and critical care medicine at The University of Kansas in Kansas City and medical adviser for the Sepsis Alliance, in an interview with HealthLeaders.1