The University of Pittsburgh 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. baumanniiand the drug-resistant bacteria known as MRSA, which cause tens of thousands of deaths in the U.S. every year.

"Infections that are resistant to antibiotics are becoming increasingly problematic not only in the United States, but around the world," said Lee Harrison, M.D., principal investigator of the grant and professor of medicine and epidemiology, University of Pittsburgh. "We not only need to develop new drugs, but also to improve infection surveillance and focus on targeted interventions."

The grant will enable investigators to establish a Center of Excellence in Prevention and Control of Antibiotic-Resistant Bacterial Infections at the University of Pittsburgh, and will include partnerships with several UPMC hospitals, Carnegie Mellon University 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 effectively controlled with existing antibiotic drugs, but microbial pathogens like C. difficile, A. baumannii and MRSA have an inherent ability to develop drug resistance through many genetic mechanisms, making them particularly difficult to treat.

Co-investigators on the grant include Scott Curry, M.D., Jo-anne Burge, M.D., Yohei Doi, M.D., Bruce Lee, M.D., and Paula Davis, all with the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

The grant was awarded as part of the Commonwealth Universal Research Enhancement Program (CURE), which supports clinical, health services and biomedical research, and was one of only four awarded to address 2008-2009 Health Research Advisory Committee priorities.

University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, U.S. Steel Tower, 600 Grant St., 57th Floor, Pittsburgh, PA 15213 United States

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University of Pittsburgh Medical Center

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