An international task force has revised the definition of sepsis on behalf of the two leading medical societies. The focus is now on the SOFA score, i.e. on organ failure. The SIRS criteria for the systemic inflammatory response have been deleted. A qSOFA score should facilitate screening without laboratory tests.

The new criteria were presented at the Society of Critical Care Medicine annual congress in Orlando and simultaneously published in the American Medical Journal (JAMA 2016, 315: 788-800). There are also two development studies (JAMA 2016; 315: 775-787) and validation (JAMA 2016; 315: 762-774) of the new criteria.

The first International Sepsis Definition was published in 1992. It is based on the simultaneous presence of a suspected or confirmed infection and at least two out of four criteria for a Systemic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (SIRS). These criteria included increase (or later fall) in body temperature, heart rate (tachycardia), respiratory rate (tachypnoea) and blood cell count (leukocytosis / leukopenia and left shift). Although the criteria were very sensitive, they were not very specific, so the 2001 definition was supplemented with some clinical symptoms and laboratory parameters.