HealthWatch: Hospital Microbe Project-Tracking Deadly Bacteria


Hospital Microbe Project-Tracking Deadly Bacteria

CHICAGO, Ill. (Ivanhoe Newswire) -48-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. That's five more than she'd hoped

"If you're in the hospital, as soon as you can get out," Rochelle told Ivanhoe.

With a struggling immune system, Rochelle 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," Rochelle said.

Each person has 100 trillion bacterial cells in our bodies. That out numbers our human cells ten to one.

"The bacteria that are inside you come from the places you live, work, and visit," Jack Gilbert, PhD, Environmental Microbiologist and Associate Professor, the University of Chicago, told Ivanhoe.

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.

"People are very interested in it," Kristen Starkey, Hospital Microbiome Project Research Assistant, told Ivanhoe.

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

"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," John C. Alverdy, MD, Professor of Surgery, Executive Vice Chairman of Department of Surgery, The University of Chicago Medicine, told Ivanhoe.

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 Microbe Project, researchers hope other hospitals will begin to investigate the potential of building bacteria and the influence it has on patient outcomes.





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:

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


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:

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