Advances target health care pathogens



A strategic alliance between two infection prevention companies, and an EPA approval for a pioneering antimicrobial technology have quickened the pace to combat health care-related infections and pathogens.

Infection-control services provider MedMined, Inc. (Birmingham, Ala.; is teaming with 3M Health Care (St. Paul, Minn.; to provide hospitals with tools and expertise to combat health care-associated infections (HAI). Meanwhile, an aggressive antimicrobial technology from Englehard Corp. (Iselin, N.J.; has been granted EPA registration for use in health care facilities against such pathogens as tuberculosis and HIV.

Targeting infection control

The MedMined/3M alliance will combine MedMined's artificial intelligence-based HAI pattern recognition capability with 3M's consulting and educational materials in hopes of improving patient care and well as a health care facility's business success.

"MedMined's sophisticated HAI pattern recognition capability, combined with the clinical process improvement tools and education available from 3M, will help hospitals make real inroads against health care-associated infections," says Matt Zuschlag, business development manager for 3M Hospital Consulting Services.

With its proprietary Data Mining Surveillance methodology, MedMined identifies opportunities to improve patient care processes that are causing health care facility infections. The company also provides daily targeted surveillance of microbiology and patient movement data, pattern/cluster detection that compares current and historical data from the health care facility, duplicate-free antibiograms (produced every six months) that indicate changes in sensitivity from the previous time frame, and JCAHO review aids that include in-patient and out-patient viral surveillance.

MedMined Inc. and 3M Health Care are combining forces to provide artificial intelligence-based tools and consulting expertise to help medical facilities improve patient care and better combat infections and pathogens.
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3M's perioperative consulting team takes the MedMined-generated data and applies a systematic, evidenced-based quality improvement approach. The company provides health care facilities with baseline knowledge assessment of perioperative staff regarding aseptic technique and infection prevention standards, a customized surgical site infection cost analysis, a comparison of staff practices with industry-established best practices, plus continuing education targeted at a facility's knowledge and practice gaps.

"By combining our service with 3M's focused consulting and educational materials, we will help enhance patient care and create a positive 'P&L' impact for our hospital clients," says G.T. LaBorde, MedMined's chief operating officer.

On the pathogen front lines, Aseptrol, an antimicrobial technology from Engelhard Corp., is now approved by the EPA for use in health care as well as dental offices. The antimicrobial is designed to release germ-killing chlorine dioxide at precise rates and in controlled concentrations when it comes in contact with water or moisture in the air.

Chlorine dioxide, which has been used previously in industrial applications, could not be incorporated into a stable powder form until Engelhard corralled its power with its controlled-release technology. Already having received EPA registration for use in purifying drinking water and fighting animal pathogens, Aseptrol is available in sachet and tablet form for use against such pathogens as tuberculosis, HIV, pseudomonas aeruginosa, staphylococcus aureus, and salmonella choleraesuis.

The antimicrobial technology is at the heart of Quip Laboratories' (Wilmington, Del.; S-10 Tabs that are designed to disinfect hard surfaces and to decontaminate instruments before sterilization. When the tablets are mixed with water, the antimicrobial solution can be wiped or sprayed onto contaminated surfaces.

Because of the growing demand for Aseptrol, Engelhard says it is expanding production capabilities within its plant in Jackson, Miss.

Extreme microbe linked to gum disease

They look a lot like bacteria and thrive in extreme environments—from submarine volcanoes to the human mouth—but until recently, scientists have not been able to connect the mysterious organisms known as archaea with a specific disease or health condition. But researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine now believe that there is a connection between abundance of archaea with severe gum disease—periodontitis.

Chronic periodontitis can result in tooth loss and is thought to play a role in such health conditions as atherosclerosis, stroke, and early delivery of low birth-weight infants.

Dr. David Relman, associate professor of medicine and microbiology/immunology at Stanford, along with members of his lab team, recently conducted a controlled study of the archaea found in the deep gap between the gums and teeth—where periodontitis begins. Analyzing samples from 58 patients at the UC-San Francisco School of Dentistry, the researchers found that more than one-third of the periodontitis patients had archaea in their diseased deep gum spaces—but nowhere else in the mouth. The relative abundance of archaea, the researchers suggest, correlated with disease severity.

The researchers speculate, however, that archaea may not directly cause periodontal disease, but rather the microbes may indirectly contribute to disease by helping other organisms grow more productively.

"Maybe we should look a little harder for evidence of archaea as promoting or causing other diseases," says Dr. Relman. "We certainly have them in our bodies, and we are exposed to them; so, the archaea have the opportunity to cause disease if they are capable of doing so. We haven't been looking for them, so we wouldn't know."

In future gum disease studies, the Stanford team plans to collect specimens repeatedly from the same spot in the affected gum area in hopes of pinpointing the moment when the archaea start to increase in number, and then perhaps determine whether that predicts later development of gum disease.—SS