Hospital microbe project: Tracking deadly bacteria

Researchers say they are tracking deadly bugs from your home to the hospital and back again.
April 7, 2014 12:00:00 AM PDT
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. That's five more than she'd hoped

"If you're in the hospital, as soon as you can get out," Rochelle told ABC30.

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 ABC30.

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 ABC30.

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 ABC30.

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.

If you would like more information, please contact:

Jack Gilbert
Environmental Microbiologist and Associate Professor
The University of Chicago
(630) 252-7489

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