The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) added six new institutions to its Prevention Epicenters Program that will work to discover new methods to prevent health care-associated infections and protect patients.

The academic medical centers were awarded a combined $11 million and will join five other epicenters that have been part of the CDC program since it began in 1997. The focus of these new epicenters, however, takes a slight turn from that of their predecessors.

When the CDC started the program, it focused on reducing health care-associated infections via clinical methods. One group, for instance, demonstrated a 40 percent reduction in infections caused by methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus through the use of skin antiseptics. Another developed a prevention package to stop the spread of carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) that cut CRE bloodstream infections by 56 percent.

This newest batch of CDC Prevention Epicenters, however, will focus on the role of the health care facility in infection prevention. Projects the epicenters have been tasked with include stopping the spread of infection in health care facilities, including the Ebola virus; evaluating best approaches to using personal protective equipment; and studying new approaches to minimizing the role of the physical health care environment in germ transmission.

"It can be difficult and challenging to prevent the spread of dangerous diseases in health care facilities," states CDC Director Tom Frieden. "To protect Americans, it's critical that we develop the cutting-edge science needed to stay ahead of the germs. The six institutions receiving these funds are doing just that."

The academic medical centers chosen are:

  • Emory University
  • Johns Hopkins University
  • University of Illinois, Chicago
  • University of Iowa
  • University of Maryland, Baltimore
  • University of Utah

According to the CDC, the spread of infectious diseases in health care settings in the United States is a problem that adds billions of dollars to health care costs. Infectious diseases like influenza, antibiotic-resistant bacteria and Clostridium difficile can spread when infection control measures are insufficient or if recommendations are not followed.

"Through the Prevention Epicenters Program, academic leaders in health care epidemiology can work together and with CDC to innovate and stay ahead of the spread of germs, said John A. Jernigan, M.D., MS, director of the office of prevention research and evaluation within CDC's division of healthcare quality promotion. "This program allows us to work closely with leading academic researchers to find out how to better reduce the risk of health care-associated infections and improve patient safety."

The CDC's existing Prevention Epicenters are:

  • Cook County Health & Hospitals System and Rush University Medical Center
  • Duke University
  • Harvard Pilgrim Health Care and University of California, Irvine
  • University of Pennsylvania
  • Washington University