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Microbiology and Genome Experts Quell Deadly Bacteria Outbreak
Date:8/22/2012

WEDNESDAY, Aug. 22 (HealthDay News) -- A deadly outbreak of antibiotic-resistant bacteria at a U.S. research hospital lasted six months and was finally brought under control through the combined efforts of genomics and microbiology experts, government researchers report.

The outbreak began when a 43-year-old New York City patient carrying a multi-drug resistant strain of Klebsiella pneumoniae introduced the dangerous bacteria into the 243-bed U.S. National Institutes of Health's Clinical Center in Bethesda, Md., in June 2011. The microbe is a common cause of hospital-borne infections.

Even with enhanced infection-control procedures, including patient isolation, the bacteria began to spread to other patients in the facility at the rate of one a week. The bacteria eventually affected 17 patients. Ten of these patients died; six from infection and four from underlying diseases while infected.

Clinical Center staff worked with investigators at the U.S. National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) to use genome sequencing to learn how the microbe spread. That collaboration helped bring the outbreak under control by the end of the year. Since then, there have been no new cases associated with the outbreak.

"Infectious outbreaks happen in every hospital in the world, afflicting millions of patients each year in the United States alone," NHGRI director Dr. Eric Green, said in an NIH/NHGRI news release.

"By marshaling the ability to sequence bacterial genomes in real time to accurately trace the bacteria as it spread among our Clinical Center patients, our researchers successfully elucidated what happened, which in turn has taught us some important lessons," he explained. "This study gives us a glimpse of how genomic technologies will alter our approach to microbial epidemics in the future."

A case history of the outbreak was published online Aug. 22 in the journal Science Translational Medicine'/>"/>

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