Application Of Molecular Techniques To The Study Of Hospital Infection
Nosocomial infections are an important source of morbidity and mortality in hospital settings, afflicting an estimated 2 million patients in United States each year. This number represents up to 5% of hospitalized patients and results in an estimated 88,000 deaths and 4.5 billion dollars in excess health care costs. Increasingly, hospital-acquired infections with multidrug-resistant pathogens represent a major problem in patients. Understanding pathogen relatedness is essential for determining the epidemiology of nosocomial infections and aiding in the design of rational pathogen control methods. The role of pathogen typing is to determine whether epidemiologically related isolates are also genetically related. To determine molecular relatedness of isolates for epidemiologic investigation, new technologies based on DNA, or molecular analysis, are methods of choice. These DNA-based molecular methodologies include pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE), PCR-based typing methods, and multilocus sequence analysis. Establishing clonality of pathogens can aid in the identification of the source (environmental or personnel) of organisms, distinguish infectious from noninfectious strains, and distinguish relapse from reinfection. The integration of molecular typing with conventional hospital epidemiologic surveillance has been proven to be cost-effective due to the associated reduction in the number of nosocomial infections. Cost-effectiveness is maximized through the collaboration of the laboratory, through epidemiologic typing, and the infection control department during epidemiologic investigations.