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Science and Innovations

TGen North Develops Screening Test for Hospital-Acquired Infections

David Dorward, PhD / National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease

Tens of thousands of patients die every year from infections they pick up while they’re in the hospital. A Flagstaff-based institute has developed a screening test to find these infections early, before symptoms appear.

The test is designed for Klebsiella pneumoniae, an organism that causes pneumonia and bloodstream infections. Jolene Bowers, a molecular biologist at the Translational Genomics Research Institute in Flagstaff, says the new test can look for infectious organisms in hundreds of patients at a time.

“So a lot of these organisms will hide out on these patients or in these patients, and nobody knows that they’re there until they surface in an infection,” Bowers says. “But what we’re trying to do is catch that before it happens.”

The test uses DNA sequencing to identify the strain of bacteria, because some strains are more deadly than others. It also looks for antibiotic resistance. Bowers plans to expand it to include other common hospital infections.

A description of the method will appear in the Journal of Clinical Microbiology in October.

Melissa joined KNAU's team in 2015 to report on science, health, and the environment. Her work has appeared nationally on NPR and been featured on Science Friday. She grew up in Tucson, Arizona, where she fell in love with the ecology and geology of the Sonoran desert.
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