Tracking deadly bacteria - the hospital microbe project - ABC 12 – WJRT – Flint, MI

Tracking deadly bacteria - the hospital microbe project

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(02/21/14) - Almost two million people go to the hospital for help and end up suffering from a super bug they caught while there. Now, one hospital is tracking these bugs from your home to the hospital and back, in hopes of saving lives.

It's been 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."

With a struggling immune system, Speller says 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."

Each of us has 100 trillion bacterial cells in our body. They out-number our human cells 10 to one.  

"The bacteria that are inside you come from the places you live, and work, and visit," says Dr. Jack Gilbert.

Gilbert and fellow University of Chicago researchers are looking at what makes up that hospital's microbial jungle and how it grows, changes, and transmits from surface to person over a year. The researchers swabbed surfaces and patients to gather samples on a daily basis.  

"People are very interested in it," says research assistant Kristen Starkey.

With more than 10,000 samples, researchers and doctors 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," and, says Dr. John Alverdy, instead wipe out deadly super bugs.

This is the first time a private hospital has allowed anybody to analyze the bacteria in their building using these techniques. The researchers hope other hospitals will begin to investigate their own building bacteria and how it affects patients.

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