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NIH uses genome sequencing to help quell bacterial outbreak in Clinical Center
Date:8/22/2012

For six months last year, a deadly outbreak of antibiotic-resistant bacteria kept infection-control specialists at the National Institutes of Health's (NIH) Clinical Center in a state of high alert. A New York City patient carrying a multi-drug resistant strain of Klebsiella pneumoniae, a microbe frequently associated with hospital-borne infections, introduced the dangerous bacteria into the 243-bed research hospital while participating in a clinical study in the summer of 2011.

Despite enhanced infection-control practices, including patient isolation, the K. pneumoniae began to spread to other Clinical Center patients at the alarming rate of one a week, ultimately colonizing 17 patients, of whom 11 died -- six from infection and five from their underlying disease while infected.

To get the outbreak under control, Clinical Center staff collaborated with investigators at the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), also part of NIH, to use genome sequencing in the middle of this active hospital epidemic to learn how the microbe spread. A report in the Aug. 22, 2012, early online edition of Science Translational Medicine describes how that collaboration helped quell the outbreak.

"Infectious outbreaks happen in every hospital in the world, afflicting millions of patients each year in the United States alone," said NHGRI Director Eric D. Green, M.D., Ph.D. "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. This study gives us a glimpse of how genomic technologies will alter our approach to microbial epidemics in the future."

The outbreak began in June 2011 when a New York City hospital transferred a seriously ill 43-year-old woman to NIH. The admitting nurse noted that the
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Contact: Raymond MacDougall
macdougallr@mail.nih.gov
301-402-0911
NIH/National Human Genome Research Institute
Source:Eurekalert

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