by Brendon Nafziger
, DOTmed News Associate Editor | November 05, 2010
Is contact with livestock helping to spread MRSA infections in rural Iowa?
Researchers could soon find out. The topic is one of almost two dozen benefiting from tens of millions of dollars in government awards that aim to help researchers looking to fight health care associated-infections.
The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, a branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said Thursday it was giving $34 million in grants to fund about 22 HAI-related projects.
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Health care infections, caused by difficult-to-treat germs, like MRSA and Clostridium difficile, are thought to kill more than 100,000 Americans each year, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates. The associated health care costs could reach as high as $33 billion.
While close to half of the grants are to hospitals, the others are to ambulatory surgical centers, long-term care facilities, and end-stage renal facilities, where there has been less work on the subject, the AHRQ said.
Particularly of interest to the agency are the outpatient surgical centers. Over the last 20 years, the number of the centers has risen dramatically, from 336 in 1985 to 5,047 in 2007. But federal inspections have revealed up to 60 percent of these centers don't always follow proper infection-prevention protocols.
"We know that infections can occur in any health care setting," said AHRQ's director, Dr. Carolyn M. Clancy, in prepared remarks. "With these new projects, we can apply what has worked in reducing infections in hospitals to other settings and ultimately help patients feel confident they are in safe hands, regardless of where they receive care."
Recipients of the grants include the University of Iowa, which is studying algorithms for prescribing prophylactic antibiotics before surgery, and Washington University, which is looking at risk factors for C. difficile infections in surgical centers. And yes, the government has also given a grant to researchers investigating whether livestock pose a risk in harboring Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus.