Geneticists in Edinburgh are leading a new study to determine whether a person’s DNA makes them more likely to die from infections.

They hope the research will accelerate the search for new medicines and help identify those most vulnerable to sepsis, which claims 50,000 lives in the UK every year.

Researchers will compare DNA from people admitted to hospital who later die from sepsis with those who survive.

They hope to isolate DNA signals from thousands of patients and use the information to identify future drug targets.

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Sepsis is a life-threatening complication that occurs when the body responds to an infection by attacking its own tissues and organs. Symptoms include cold hands and feet, mottled skin, increased heart rate, fever, quickened breathing, and confusion.

It can quickly lead to multiple organ failure and death, but is often misdiagnosed or detected too late.

More people die from sepsis than the combined figure for breast cancer and bowel cancer.

Lesley Jack, from Wishaw in North Lanarkshire, is among those lucky enough to have survived.

The children’s nursery manager was aged 25 and planning her wedding when she woke up on April 13 2016 with what she describes as a “terrible flu, cough and sore throat”.

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Within days her temperature was “through the roof” and she was so hot she had to sleep naked on top of the bed covers with a window open.

As her condition became steadily worse, not better, she contacted NHS 24 and was given an out of hours GP appointment on April 17.

“I remember hanging my head out the car window to cool down,” said Ms Jack, now 28.

“I remember not being able to sit in the doctor’s office as I was too warm. I was unable to walk and barely conscious."

The GP told her father to drive her straight to hospital.

She said: “They had a space set out for me and a drip ready. They did not think, however, I would be arriving with minutes to live.

“A nurse took of my shoes and I remember my legs being purple. This is when it all got a bit crazy.

"People began running around - lights were flashing my clothes were being ripped from my body and I had tubes coming from all over my body. I remember a nurse saying to my mother ‘we will do everything we can’.”

On April 20, Ms Jack was put into an induced coma. A CT scan showed a mass on her left lung.

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She was diagnosed with severe pneumonia and a chest infection, which had triggered the sepsis.

She said: “I am very lucky to be alive and not to have lost limbs but I feel people need to understand the mental state that is left after this kind of ordeal especially for employers, family and friends.

“My life has completely changed since I became unwell, although I wouldn’t say it is a bad thing as I believe it has given me a better outlook on life.

"But it is so important that people are understanding of the aftermath of what sepsis does to a human body both physically and mentally.”

The Edinburgh University project is being funded with £40,000 a year from Sepsis Research, a charity founded by Craig Stobo in memory of his wife Dr Fiona Agnew and their unborn daughter, Isla, who both died in 2012 after contracting the illness.

Dr Kenneth Baillie, Academic Consultant in Critical Care Medicine and Group Leader at the Roslin Institute, said: “We know that people who have been adopted, whose biological parents have died of infection, are themselves six times more likely to die from infection.

"This link is not seen with adoptive parents, suggesting that genes are key to understanding sepsis treatments.

“[This funding] will help us to unlock some of the clues to how DNA governs sepsis recovery.”