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Healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) and other adverse events continue to cause significant morbidity and mortality among patients treated in U.S. healthcare institutions and add billions of dollars to healthcare costs. Recent advances in the understanding of how to prevent certain HAIs have been gained through activities designed to improve the implementation of existing recommendations for prevention practice in healthcare settings. However, existing prevention strategies are limited by the current state of science, and thus cannot prevent all HAIs even when fully implemented. Investment in ongoing HAI prevention research is a critical step to improving upon existing prevention strategies and moving closer to the goal of eliminating HAIs.

Prevention Epicenters program

The CDC Prevention Epicenters Program is a collaboration of academic medical centers that conducts innovative infection control and prevention research. Prevention Epicenter investigators perform a number of research studies across a wide spectrum of topics relevant to the prevention of HAIs. These studies advance knowledge about HAIs and the progress toward their elimination.

Laboratory research

CDC conducts a variety of laboratory research studies. Through this research CDC has:

  • Validated the modified Hodge test, which tests for the presence of carbapenemases in specific isolates and thus allows early detection of carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE), an emerging healthcare pathogen. 
  • Explored the biology of vancomycin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (VRSA).
  • Validated surface sampling protocols for recovery and semi-quantitation of anthrax spores from smooth nonporous surfaces.  These protocols will allow for standardization of environmental sample collection after an intentional or unintentional release of spores within buildings. These protocols have been adapted for assessment of environmental contamination with healthcare pathogens. They have also been used in research conducted by CDC's Prevention Epicenters program of Clostridium difficile contamination before and after environmental cleaning, and as part of outbreak investigations involving multidrug-resistant HAIs.
  • Developed and licensed a Biofilm reactor (the CDC Reactor, BioSurface Technologies, Bozeman, MT) that is used to study single and multispecies biofilms. 
  • Developed models for testing efficacy of disinfectants in water distribution systems, which have been combined with field studies of prevention measures to reduce opportunistic pathogens in healthcare water systems.
  • Standardized protocols for the detection of biofilms on explanted medical devices such as indwelling catheters and catheter access devices and on other materials relevant for public health.
  • Established the role of free-living amoebae in the growth of Legionella pneumophila in potable water system biofilms.

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