Volume 103, Issue 1
  • ISSN: 0002-9637
  • E-ISSN: 1476-1645



There are scarce data describing the etiology and clinical sequelae of sepsis in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). This study describes the prevalence and etiology of sepsis among critically ill patients at a referral hospital in Malawi. We conducted an observational prospective cohort study of adults admitted to the intensive care unit or high-dependency unit (HDU) from January 29, 2018 to March 15, 2018. We stratified the cohort based on the prevalence of sepsis as defined in the following three ways: quick sequential organ failure assessment (qSOFA) score ≥ 2, clinical suspicion of systemic infection, and qSOFA score ≥ 2 plus suspected systemic infection. We measured clinical characteristics and blood and urine cultures for all patients; antimicrobial sensitivities were assessed for positive cultures. During the study period, 103 patients were admitted and 76 patients were analyzed. The cohort comprised 39% male, and the median age was 30 (interquartile range: 23–40) years. Eighteen (24%), 50 (66%), and 12 patients (16%) had sepsis based on the three definitions, respectively. Four blood cultures (5%) were positive, two from patients with sepsis by all three definitions and two from patients with clinically suspected infection only. All blood bacterial isolates were multidrug resistant. Of five patients with urinary tract infection, three had sepsis secondary to multidrug-resistant bacteria. Hospital mortality for patients with sepsis based on the three definitions ranged from 42% to 75% versus 12% to 26% for non-septic patients. In summary, mortality associated with sepsis at this Malawi hospital is high. Bacteremia was infrequently detected, but isolated pathogens were multidrug resistant.


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Supplemental tables and appendix

  • Received : 15 Aug 2019
  • Accepted : 27 Feb 2020
  • Published online : 27 Apr 2020
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