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March 19, 2009

Med School gets $4.7M in tobacco funding to fight infection

The School of Medicine has received a four-year, $4.7 million grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Health to find new ways to stop deadly hospital-acquired infections that often are resistant to treatment.

The grant, funded by Pennsylvania’s share of the national 2008-2009 tobacco settlement, will focus on C. difficile, A. baumannii and the drug-resistant bacteria known as MRSA, which cause tens of thousands of deaths in the United States every year.

The grant will enable investigators to establish a Center of Excellence in Prevention and Control of Antibiotic-Resistant Bacterial Infections, and will include partnerships with several UPMC hospitals, Carnegie Mellon and Kane Regional Centers of Allegheny County.

The project will assess the medical and economic impacts of new strategies to prevent and control hospital-acquired infections, which were diagnosed in 27,000 patients in Pennsylvania in 2007. Patients with these infections were hospitalized three times longer and their admissions were four times as expensive as non-infected patients.

Most bacterial infections can be controlled effectively with existing antibiotics, but some microbial pathogens such as C. difficile, A. baumannii and MRSA have an inherent ability to develop drug resistance, making them particularly difficult to treat.

Lee Harrison, professor of medicine and epidemiology, is principal investigator. Co-investigators include Scott Curry, Jo-Anne Burge, Yohei Doi, Bruce Lee and Paula Davis, all with the School of Medicine.

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