Advancing Academic and Practical Knowledge To Prevent Infections From Hospital to Home

Susan Huang"Understanding how to prevent infections in all settings of care is critical to keeping patients safe."

Keeping patients safe from harms such as healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) is an AHRQ priority that is shared by grantee Susan Huang, M.D., M.P.H., Professor of Medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases and Medical Director, Epidemiology and Infection Prevention, at the University of California Irvine, School of Medicine. Using funds from AHRQ, Dr. Huang has advanced the field of infection prevention by identifying how HAIs are transmitted and discovering new approaches to prevent them.

HAIs are a common threat to patients in all settings of care. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is one of the most common HAIs. It is difficult to treat and to prevent because it's resistant to some antibiotics and is easily transmitted from person to person.

People who are colonized with MRSA have the germ on their bodies but are not infected by it. If a person is colonized with MRSA, they have an increased risk of developing a MRSA infection and can also pass the MRSA germ on to others who may develop an infection. Currently, MRSA colonizes or infects 1.8 million hospital patients each year. Dr. Huang set out to address this problem using AHRQ funding to lead research projects that investigate how to prevent MRSA transmission.

In a project funded in 2010 (Project CLEAR—Changing Lives by Eradicating Antibiotic Resistance), Dr. Huang's research team assessed the value of sending patients home from the hospital with an antiseptic regimen to decolonize or remove MRSA from their bodies. By removing MRSA from the patient, the research team aimed to prevent new or recurrent MRSA infections and reduce unnecessary trips back to the hospital.

Hospital admission is also a concern for the millions of nursing home residents that are affected by HAIs each year. These infections are particularly problematic in nursing homes because residents are older and more prone to having health conditions that increase their risk of an infection. This is why in another trial funded by AHRQ in 2015, Dr. Huang and her team are adapting decolonization to the nursing home setting by comparing this intervention to current nursing home infection prevention practices.

These grants build on Dr. Huang's earlier work in hospitals, which demonstrated that decolonizing hospital intensive care unit patients reduced all-cause bloodstream infections by more than 40 percent. The AHRQ-funded REDUCE-MRSA trial, completed in 2013, was a public-private partnership involving AHRQ, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Hospital Corporation of America. It was one of several AHRQ contracts under which Dr. Huang has served as principal investigator, leading research teams to better understand and prevent the spread of HAIs. The protocols Dr. Huang's team developed during the REDUCE-MRSA trial are now common practice nationwide.

Dr. Huang has also participated in AHRQ-funded research projects that advance the appropriate use of antibiotics for children and the use of claims data for surveillance of surgical site infections. Her work to advance the academic and practical knowledge of infection prevention has informed the Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee, which advises on infection prevention and surveillance practices used throughout the U.S. health care system. Dr. Huang has received numerous awards for her advances in HAI prevention, including the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America's 2012 Investigator Award and the Infectious Disease Society of America's 2016 Oswald Avery Award for Early Achievement.

Principal Investigator: Susan Huang, M.D., M.P.H., Medical Director of Epidemiology and Infection Prevention, Professor, Infectious Diseases, School of Medicine
Institution: University of California, Irvine Medical Center
Grantee Since: 2001
Type of Grant: various

Consistent with its mission, AHRQ provides a broad range of extramural research grants and contracts, research training, conference grants, and intramural research activities. AHRQ is committed to fostering the next generation of health services researchers who can focus on some of the most important challenges facing our Nation's health care system.

To learn more about AHRQ's Research Education and Training Programs, please visit http://www.ahrq.gov/training.

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Page last reviewed October 2017
Page originally created September 2017
Internet Citation: Advancing Academic and Practical Knowledge To Prevent Infections From Hospital to Home. Content last reviewed October 2017. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://www.ahrq.gov/funding/grantee-profiles/grtprofile-huang.html