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U. researchers awarded $2.7 million for infection research

Three-year CDC contract focuses on managing microbial balance in nursing homes

A team of University researchers has been awarded a three-year, $2.7 million contract from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention focused on research to reduce infections, according to a University press release.

Beginning with $500,000 in the first year, the team will investigate how to improve antimicrobial stewardship in nursing homes using the facilities provided by the Center for Long-Term Care Quality and Innovation — also known as the Q&I Center — which is a partnership between Brown and the American Health Care Association.

Antimicrobial stewardship is a set of practices that promote a balance of bacteria within the body. These practices include standards for timing and dosages of drugs, cleanliness and doctor-patient interaction.

Promoting antimicrobial stewardship is especially important as certain bacteria grow resistant, said Terrie Fox Wetle, dean of the School of Public Health. Patients who do not take their drugs as prescribed often create more drug-resistant bacteria within their body, Fox said, and doctors occasionally overprescribe antibiotics, creating an imbalance within one’s immune system. Issues such as these are becoming increasingly important as new drug-resistant strains arise, she added.

For this specific contract, a team led by Adjunct Professor of Medicine and Health Services Stefan Gravenstein will look into best practices that enforce the core elements of antimicrobial stewardship as outlined by the CDC. The team will be awarded the rest of the money within the contract as it continues to meet the goals put forth by the CDC.

The contract and entry into the CDC pools is significant because it marks the first time that the School of Public Health has been able to access funding from the CDC in a significant way, Fox said. Brown is uniquely positioned for this research due to its methodological expertise and its access to a wide range of data through the Q&I center, she added.

The University was able to secure this contract because of its application and acceptance into a pool of universities and institutions that have the exclusive right to bid on certain contracts with the CDC, which also increases the likelihood that Brown gets chosen for future contracts. The process was spearheaded by Rosa Baier, associate director of the Q&I Center and the principal investigator on the project, and both current and future contracts will be managed by Baier.

“The contract is the first opportunity that we have to collaborate with the CDC on a project” granted to the university from this pool, Baier said.

Brown is in two contract pools relating to infections: one on creating research protocols in nursing homes and other peer settings, and another on implementing such protocols, Baier said. Only 12 institutions were accepted into the first pool and four into the second, she added.

While the CDC plans on releasing almost $200 million through this mechanism, the specifics of future projects are unknown, Baier said.


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