Allentown
63° F
Overcast
Overcast

Health Beat: Hospital microbe project — Tracking deadly bacteria

By Melanie Falcon, Anchor / Reporter, @Melanie_Falcon, MFalcon@wfmz.com
Published On: Mar 04 2014 09:00:00 AM CST

Hospital microbe project — Tracking deadly bacteria

CHICAGO -

Some 48,000 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 was 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," Speller said.

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

Each person has 100 trillion bacterial cells in our bodies. That out numbers our human cells 10  to one.

"The bacteria that are inside you come from the places you live, work, and visit," said Jack Gilbert, environmental microbiologist and associate professor, the 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.

"People are very interested in it," said Kristen Starkey, Hospital Microbiome Project research assistant.

With more than 10,000 samples, researchers and doctors said they 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," said Dr. John C. Alverdy, professor of surgery, executive vice chairman of department of surgery, The University of Chicago Medicine.

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.

DOWNLOAD and VIEW research summary and an in-depth interview with the doctor