A team of researchers set out on a first of its kind project, called the “Hospital Microbiome Project”, which followed microbes and the way these spread in a newly opened hospital.
Initial study results became available earlier this week in the journal Science Translational Medicine. This year-long survey of the hospital provides a never before access into the microbial communities found in a hospital. It may also lead the way into better understanding and dealing with hospital-acquired infections, according to the study team.
The Hospital Microbiome Project, First of Its Kind, Significant Results.
The researchers constructed their unique microbiome map by observing the Center for Care and Discovery at the University of Chicago Medicine. Conducted over a period of 12 months, the researchers started studying the newly constructed hospital two months before it opened and the ten months after it started operating.
“We are mapping a new world in the hospital so that we can understand the trade routes, if you will, of microbes moving in that space,” stated Jack Gilbert.
He is the study’s senior author and the director of the University of Chicago Microbiome Center. He states that the Hospital Microbiome Project offers a “multidimensional, mathematical hypervolume of interactive space”.
To put it simply, it is not the standard two-dimensional map. As it indicates the location of specific microbes, it also suggests their potential movement patterns and future positions. This, in turn, can help predict future interactions between bacteria and their future pathways.
The study team collected over 6,500 microbial samples from the hospital, its staff members, and patients willing to participate. Initially, the location only contained bacterial organisms commonly found in water and soil.
But as patients started flowing in, these were replaced by microbes from the human skin. These were also noted to survive despite the regular cleaning and bleaching. The team also stated that it noted some interesting trends. For example, the way microbes travel from one location to the other. Or the differences in organism types, as they develop differently according to the surface.
Most of the microbes detected by the team were reportedly benign and unlikely to cause problems. As it is, the Hospital Microbiome Project could lay the base for future studies targeting hospital acquired infections or microbial ecosystems.
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