Chicago hospital learning to fight infections

Almost 2 million people go to the hospital for help and end up suffering from a super bug they caught while there.

Forty eight thousand Americans die each year from infections contracted in hospitals.

Now, researchers are tracking these deadly bugs from your home to the hospital and back again.

What they find could end up saving millions of lives.
It's been six days in the hospital for Rochelle Speller, five more than she'd hoped.

With a struggling immune system, Speller says she doesn't want to become one of the thousands of people who die due to hospital acquired bacterial infections.

“I have been lucky not to have gotten sick,” she says.

Each person has 100 trillion bacterial cells in their body, they outnumber human cells ten to one.

"The bacteria that are inside you come from the places you live, and work, and visit," explains Jack Gillbert, environmental microbiologist and associate professor, University of Chicago.

University of Chicago researchers are looking at what makes up the hospital's microbial jungle and how it grows, changes, and transmits from surface to person over a year.

Researchers swab surfaces and patients to gather samples on a daily basis.

With over 10,000 samples, researchers and doctors hope to eventually find a way to prevent hospital born infections.

Doctors say one thing to do might be to provide more good bacteria to counteract the bad bacteria as opposed to just giving more antibiotics that will wipe out everybody.

This is the first time a private hospital has enabled anybody to analyze the bacteria in their building using these techniques.

This is the most comprehensive assessment of a hospital microbiome ever performed.

In the University of Chicago Hospital Microbiome Project, researchers hope other hospitals will begin to investigate the potential of building bacteria and the influence it has on patient outcomes.

MEDICAL BREAKTHROUGHS
RESEARCH SUMMARY

TOPIC: HOSPITAL MICROBE PROJECT-TRACKING DEADLY BACTERIA
REPORT: MB # 3740

BACKGROUND: Being in the hospital can expose patients to the myriad of bacteria that live in the environment. Often, people can get sick from these bacteria, and these are called hospital acquired infections, or healthcare-associated infections (HAIs). Every day, about one in every 20 patients contracts an HAI from receiving healthcare in a hospital. Sometimes, these infections can be deadly for patients, and often HAIs can be even more serious than a "normal" virus or infection. This is because the bacteria often have become drug-resistant in the hospital, and therefore makes it more difficult to treat. (Source: http://www.cdc.gov/HAI/burden.html)
CAUSES: It's hard to know exactly where an HAI came from, but some of the most likely culprits include:
* Use of indwelling devices like catheters
* Surgical procedures
* Injections
* Contamination of the environment
* Transmission of infection between patient and healthcare worker
* Overuse or misuse of antibiotics
(Source: http://www.health.gov/hai/prevent_hai.asp)
NEW TECHNOLOGY: A team of researchers at the University of Chicago are currently studying the way in which humans change and interact with the community of bacteria living in a hospital. In the Hospital Microbiome Project, researchers are taking bacteria samples of various hospitals in order to understand how the microbiome changes. In a previous study, the same team found humans can change the microbiome in a home within 4 to 6 days. By gaining a better understanding of how the microbiome operates, researchers hope to be able to treat and avoid HAIs in the future. (Source: http://hospitalmicrobiome.com/overview/)
FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT:

Jack Gilbert
Environmental Microbiologist and Associate Professor
The University of Chicago
(630) 252-7489
gilbertjack@uchicago.edu

If this story or any other Ivanhoe story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com


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