UC Irvine, Harvard part of renewed effort to develop strategies to prevent infections, improve healthcare quality

June 27, 2016

UC Irvine and the Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute have received renewed funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to continue efforts to develop and test innovative approaches to preventing infections and improving patient safety in healthcare settings.

The total $26 million CDC award will support applied research at five academic medical centers as part of the agency's patient safety research effort known as Prevention Epicenters Program. The Translational Prevention Research Epicenter jointly led by the Department of Population Medicine, Harvard Medical School at the Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute and the Division of Infectious Diseases at UCI will receive up to $6.7 million for core and supplemental projects. The new funding more than doubles previous awards and extends the Prevention Epicenters program to 2020. 

"This program is the cornerstone in our national efforts to develop and apply strategies to combat the spread of healthcare-associated infections," said Susan Huang, MD, MPH, professor, infectious disease, UC Irvine School of Medicine and director of epidemiology & infection prevention at UC Irvine Medical Center.

Huang is the joint-principal investigator of the Translational Prevention Research Epicenter with Richard Platt, MD, MS, professor and chair of the Department of Population Medicine, Harvard Medical School. Much of Huang's career reflects her commitment and contribution to this effort.

Funding for the Prevention Epicenters is part of CDC’s Antibiotic Resistance Solutions Initiative, an national effort transforming the Agency’s ability to further address antibiotic resistance at all levels. Prevention Epicenter efforts will help slow the development of resistant bacteria and prevent the spread of resistant infections, the first goal in the National Strategy for Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria. 

“For nearly two decades, the Epicenters have advanced the fight against healthcare-associated infections with practical clinical innovations that have saved lives,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. “Antibiotic-resistant infections are on the rise, making this research even more critical today than ever.”

About one in 25 patients in U.S. hospitals gets an infection while receiving medical treatment for other conditions, leading to sepsis or death in many cases. In some hospitals, antibiotic-resistant bacteria cause one in four catheter and surgery-related infections. The growing toll is described in CDC’s Vital Signs

Transformative Prevention

For nearly 20 years, Prevention Epicenters have discovered and tested innovative ways to prevent and control infections in healthcare, including addressing scientific questions about antibiotic resistance. 

During this next award period, this Epicenter will focus on the following activities: 

  • Conduct the Swapout Trial - a cluster-randomized trial to assess the ability of nasal application of iodophor containing ointment to that of mupirocin ointment in ICU patients to prevent serious infection and emergence of antimicrobial resistance.
  • Conduct the CLUSTER Trial - Cluster Linkage Using Statistics to Trigger and Evaluate Response – a cluster randomized trial to compare the utility of statistical tools to current practice for limiting the size and duration of outbreaks of hospital acquired infections.
  • Create new ways to predict which patients with community acquired pneumonia and urinary tract infections are infected with antibiotic resistant organisms and develop effective methods for communicating this information to clinicians
  • Compare clinical outcomes in non-critically ill patients admitted to the hospital with pneumonia and started empirically on standard-spectrum versus extended-spectrum antibiotic therapy.
  • Determine the impact of the Medicare pay-for-reporting sepsis management bundle on processes of care, clinical outcomes, and administrative coding.
  • Develop an objective, electronically-computable surveillance definition for hospital-acquired pneumonia not related to ventilator use.

Prevention Epicenters funded from 2016 to 2020:

  • Chicago Prevention and Intervention Epicenter
  • Duke University and the University of North Carolina
  • The Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute and University of California, Irvine
  • The University of Pennsylvania
  • Washington University

CDC’s Prevention Epicenters Program supports research to identify and develop innovative strategies that improve healthcare quality and patient safety. CDC’s Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion (DHQP) began the program in 1997 as a way to promote innovation and work directly with a network of medical academic centers to address important scientific questions regarding prevention of healthcare-associated infections, antibiotic resistance, and other healthcare-associated adverse events. Through Prevention Epicenters, academic leaders in healthcare epidemiology collaborate with CDC to conduct research designed to better prevent infections, control antimicrobial resistance and protect patients.

The Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute's Department of Population Medicine is a unique collaboration between Harvard Pilgrim Health Care and Harvard Medical School.  Created in 1993, it is the only appointing medical school department in the United States based in a health plan.  The Institute focuses on improving health care delivery and population health through innovative research and teaching.

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