High Mortality Due to Sepsis in Native Hawaiians and African Americans: The Multiethnic Cohort


A new study of the University of Hawaii Cancer Center analyzed sepsis mortality and its predictors by ethnicity in the Multiethnic Cohort (MEC). Among 191,561 white, African American, Native Hawaiian, Japanese American, and Latino cohort members, 49,347 deaths due to all causes and 345 deaths due to sepsis were recorded during follow-up from 1993-96 until 2010. 

Age-adjusted rates of sepsis death were 5-times higher for Hawaii than Los Angeles. By ethnicity, Native Hawaiians had the highest rate in Hawaii and African Americans in Los Angeles. African Americans showed the highest risk followed by Native Hawaiians as compared to whites. 

The finding that African Americans and Native Hawaiians experience a higher mortality risk due to sepsis than other ethnic groups suggest ethnicity-related biological factors in the predisposition of cancer patients and other immune-compromising conditions to develop sepsis, but regional differences in health care access and death coding may also be important.

The findings from the current analysis indicate certain predispositions of cancer patients for sepsis with minority backgrounds and highlight the importance of paying special attention to these patients. A higher infection rate in non-whites and a higher likelihood to develop organ dysfunction has been documented, but differences in clinical care as shown for African Americans may also be responsible for the higher sepsis mortality. Identification of ethnicity-related genetic factors to the incidence and prognosis of sepsis may aid in developing more complete sepsis prevention, rapid early detection, and effective treatment approaches.

To read the full study, please click here.

Marvin Zick