Hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) are a serious problem worldwide: for example in the United States, HAIs are the 6th leading cause of death, killing more people than diabetes or influenza. Despite efficient disinfection procedures pathogenic bacteria are commonly found in hospital environment and equipment. Risk of getting HAI is often connected to invasive procedures, such as catheters, but the infection can also be transferred via bed space earlier occupied by a diseased patient. With more stringent cleaning and disinfection procedures, fatal infections are increasing, suggesting that current practices are inadequate to protect the patients.
In this project, we study in practice a recently proposed theory suggesting that hospital-acquired infections could be reduced by increasing the amount of beneficial microbes in hospital environment. To test this idea, we will map the microbiome of a functioning hospital, and correlate the information with prevalence of pathogenic bacteria, their (antibiotic) resistance, and the extent and network of horizontal gene transfer (HGT), reflecting the probability for developing new hospital pathogens. Finally, we test if these risks can be reduced by increasing beneficial microbial diversity.
The project will significantly enhance our understanding of microbial processes behind the development and pathogenicity of HAIs, and open new perspectives with future potential for improving seriously ill patients’ welfare and opportunity to recover in the hospital environment.
Projektmitarbeiter im Team CME: Kaisa Koskinen, Stefanie Duller, Christine Moissl-Eichinger