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Rush, Cook County hospitals get grant for fight against deadly superbugs

Monday, June 27, 2016
Chicago Tribune
by Ameet Sachdev

A collaboration betweenRush University Medical Centerand the Cook Cook health system will receive nearly $10 million to continue research in fighting deadly superbugs, theCenters for Disease Control and Preventionsaid Monday.

CDC officials came to Chicago to announce the award and highlight the success the two academic medical centers have had in reducing the spread of the drug-resistant germCRE, or carbapenem-resistant enterobacteriaceae.

A cleaning protocol developed by Rush and county researchers cut the number of bloodstream infections by CRE by more than 50 percent in four hospitals where it was tested, said Dr. Beth Bell, CDC's director of the National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases.

"They have done groundbreaking work looking at antibiotic resistance as a community problem," Bell said. "Antibiotic resistance is one of the more serious concerns of our time."

The new federal grant will allow the recipients to develop and test regional approaches for preventing the spread of deadly bacteria between health care facilities. The local funds were part of $26 million the CDC awarded to five academic centers around the country to support research in preventing infections at health care facilities.

The CDC estimates that 1 in 25 patients in U.S. hospitals gets an infection while receiving medical treatment for other conditions, leading to sepsis or death in many cases.

In 2013, one of the largest U.S. outbreaks on record of CRE occurred at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in suburban Park Ridge, where 39 patients were infected and two died, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. The patients were infected by contaminated medical scopes used to treat digestive conditions.

A Senate health committee investigating the infection at Lutheran General and similar outbreaks at other hospitals across the country found serious problems in patient safety. The committee's report detailed a woefully inadequate warning system, in which manufacturers failed to inform health officials about potential problems linked to their devices, hospitals failed to alert federal regulators about outbreaks and the Food and Drug Administration was slow to identify the problem and alert the public.

After the deadly scare, Lutheran General began using a highly toxic gas to sterilize the instruments.

With past federal funding, researchers from Rush and Cook County Health and Hospitals System put together a database tracking patients diagnosed with CRE so doctors who treat them are alerted to use extra precautions. They also created the cleaning protocol tried out at four long-term, acute-care hospitals, which have higher rates of CRE infection.

Twitter @ameetsachdev

Copyright © 2016,Chicago Tribune

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