Crime scene investigators use many tools to figure out the events leading up to a crime, how the crime was committed, and how to apprehend the criminal. They draw on their knowledge of physics, psychology, statistics, and many other fields in order to glean as much information as possible from the evidence. In many ways, hospital epidemiologists operate in the same way - with very similar tools. In these cases, the victims of the crime are vulnerable patients. The criminals? Infectious pathogens leading to infection. Today we will explore one tool they share in common: DNA sequencing.
On a fall day in 1928, a window was left open in a London laboratory, letting in a cool breeze. Carried on that breeze were microscopic spores of mold, tiny particles that fell gently onto a work surface covered with open Petri dishes culturing Staphylococcus bacteria. One spore landed on the rich culture medium of a dish and began to grow, contaminating the experiment in progress. This contamination, to the surprise of the scientist when he returned to check on his experiment, was peculiar. The mold had not simply grown, it had also destroyed all the bacteria around it, leaving a clear boundary all around its perimeter. The scientist was Alexander Flemming, and his determination to find out what was going on in this peculiar, unexpected, serendipitous mistake would lead to the world-changing discovery of antibiotics.
This week saw epic snowfalls in the US, assuring us that winter is very much upon us. For those of us who live where it gets colder and colder this time of year, we may be finding ourselves wrapping ourselves up more as we go out, bundling up to stay cozy inside, and generally getting ourselves situated to make it through the cold season. We are reacting to our environment, just as bears prepare to hibernate, and birds prepare to migrate. Microorganisms react to their environment as well, with some bacteria having the ability to produce spores in order to survive outside a host. In today's post, we will examine one such bacterial spore, one that causes hundreds of thousands of infections each year and tens of thousands of deaths: Clostridioides difficile.
Polymerase Chain Reaction, or PCR, allows us to quickly identify a pathogen from a small sample. This rapid identification is a helpful change from traditional culturing methods, which can take several days. In today's post, we will explore how faster identification leads to better patient outcomes.
One of the most universally-recognized impacts from the colonization of North and South America is the horrific de-population of indigenous peoples due to the myriad diseases brought by Europeans colonists. Some exposure was accidental, some was weaponized, but all exposure led to massive loss of life counted in the millions. In today's post, we want to highlight a health topic that is often overshadowed by this tragedy: The First Peoples' approach to medical care had made significant advances compared to European practices, many of which have been rediscovered only within the last century.
While prevention is always the goal when it comes to a hospital-acquired infection, rapid diagnosis is essential to better outcomes. The sooner the physician knows which pathogen is causing the infection, the sooner she can prescribe the correct antibiotic. The sooner the medical team can determine if a patient is cleared of infection, the sooner that patient can be removed from isolation. Unfortunately, traditional diagnosing requires samples from the patient be plated and cultured, a process that can take from 16 hours to several weeks. However, a technology exists that allows pathogens to be identified in just a few hours. Over the course of two posts, we will explore the transformative technology of polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, and the impact it is having on hospital infection control.
The community of EOS Surfaces respectfully acknowledges the Chesepioc, Nansemond and other peoples of the Powhatan Tribes as the original stewards of the land, taken by conquest, on which our plant now stands. We thank their descendants for their forbearance and for the opportunity to produce a material that brings protection and healing to so many using a material from the land itself, copper.
Far above the Arctic Circle there is a remote Alaskan town known as a hub between ocean and inland shipping with only 3,000 permanent residents. Kotzebue, or Qikiqtagruk to its indigenous Inupiaq peoples, has a long history of serving as a transportation and gathering hub, with inhabitants dating back centuries using the port to trade furs, seal-oil, and fish. Today, this small town is known for more than just being the "Gateway to the Arctic," but also the hometown of the first Alaskan Native to hold a PhD in Microbiology, Dr. Kat Milligan-McClellan. In today's post, we'll learn how her indigenous roots inform her current research into our gut microbiota.
Would it surprise you to hear that about two-thirds of clinical decisions are based on laboratory test information? Yes, medical technologist are a critical high demand staff position in healthcare facilities. Today's post will explore this behind-the-scenes job and its critical role in the fight against hospital acquired infections.