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This SHEA white paper identifies knowledge gaps and challenges in healthcare epidemiology research related to COVID-19 with a focus on core principles of healthcare epidemiology. These gaps, revealed during the worst phases of the COVID-19 pandemic, are described in 10 sections: epidemiology, outbreak investigation, surveillance, isolation precaution practices, personal protective equipment (PPE), environmental contamination and disinfection, drug and supply shortages, antimicrobial stewardship, healthcare personnel (HCP) occupational safety, and return to work policies. Each section highlights three critical healthcare epidemiology research questions with detailed description provided in supplemental materials. This research agenda calls for translational studies from laboratory-based basic science research to well-designed, large-scale studies and health outcomes research. Research gaps and challenges related to nursing homes and social disparities are included. Collaborations across various disciplines, expertise and across diverse geographic locations will be critical.
It is unclear if mild-to-moderate dehydration independently affects mood without confounders like heat exposure or exercise. This study examined the acute effect of cellular dehydration on mood. Forty-nine adults (55 % female, age 39 (sd 8) years) were assigned to counterbalanced, crossover trials. Intracellular dehydration was induced with 2-h (0·1 ml/kg per min) 3 % hypertonic saline (HYPER) infusion or 0·9 % isotonic saline (ISO) as a control. Plasma osmolality increased in HYPER (pre 285 (sd 3), post 305 (sd 4) mmol/kg; P < 0·05) but remained unchanged in ISO (pre 285 (sd 3), post 288 (sd 3) mmol/kg; P > 0·05). Mood was assessed with the short version of the Profile of Mood States Questionnaire (POMS). The POMS sub-scale (confusion-bewilderment, depression-dejection, fatigue-inertia) increased in HYPER compared with ISO (P < 0·05). Total mood disturbance score (TMD) assessed by POMS increased from 10·3 (sd 0·9) to 16·6 (sd 1·7) in HYPER (P < 0·01), but not in ISO (P > 0·05). When TMD was stratified by sex, the increase in the HYPER trial was significant in females (P < 0·01) but not in males (P > 0·05). Following infusion, thirst and copeptin (surrogate for vasopressin) were also higher in females than in males (21·3 (sd 2·0), 14·1 (sd 1·4) pmol/l; P < 0·01) during HYPER. In conclusion, cellular dehydration acutely degraded specific aspects of mood mainly in women. The mechanisms underlying sex differences may be related to elevated thirst and vasopressin.
To characterize associations between exposures within and outside the medical workplace with healthcare personnel (HCP) SARS-CoV-2 infection, including the effect of various forms of respiratory protection.
We collected data from international participants via an online survey.
In total, 1,130 HCP (244 cases with laboratory-confirmed COVID-19, and 886 controls healthy throughout the pandemic) from 67 countries not meeting prespecified exclusion (ie, healthy but not working, missing workplace exposure data, COVID symptoms without lab confirmation) were included in this study.
Respondents were queried regarding workplace exposures, respiratory protection, and extra-occupational activities. Odds ratios for HCP infection were calculated using multivariable logistic regression and sensitivity analyses controlling for confounders and known biases.
HCP infection was associated with non–aerosol-generating contact with COVID-19 patients (adjusted OR, 1.4; 95% CI, 1.04–1.9; P = .03) and extra-occupational exposures including gatherings of ≥10 people, patronizing restaurants or bars, and public transportation (adjusted OR range, 3.1–16.2). Respirator use during aerosol-generating procedures (AGPs) was associated with lower odds of HCP infection (adjusted OR, 0.4; 95% CI, 0.2–0.8, P = .005), as was exposure to intensive care and dedicated COVID units, negative pressure rooms, and personal protective equipment (PPE) observers (adjusted OR range, 0.4–0.7).
COVID-19 transmission to HCP was associated with medical exposures currently considered lower-risk and multiple extra-occupational exposures, and exposures associated with proper use of appropriate PPE were protective. Closer scrutiny of infection control measures surrounding healthcare activities and medical settings considered lower risk, and continued awareness of the risks of public congregation, may reduce the incidence of HCP infection.
The updated common rule, for human subjects research, requires that consents “begin with a ‘concise and focused’ presentation of the key information that will most likely help someone make a decision about whether to participate in a study” (Menikoff, Kaneshiro, Pritchard. The New England Journal of Medicine. 2017; 376(7): 613–615.). We utilized a community-engaged technology development approach to inform feature options within the REDCap software platform centered around collection and storage of electronic consent (eConsent) to address issues of transparency, clinical trial efficiency, and regulatory compliance for informed consent (Harris, et al. Journal of Biomedical Informatics 2009; 42(2): 377–381.). eConsent may also improve recruitment and retention in clinical research studies by addressing: (1) barriers for accessing rural populations by facilitating remote consent and (2) cultural and literacy barriers by including optional explanatory material (e.g., defining terms by hovering over them with the cursor) or the choice of displaying different videos/images based on participant’s race, ethnicity, or educational level (Phillippi, et al. Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, & Neonatal Nursing. 2018; 47(4): 529–534.).
We developed and pilot tested our eConsent framework to provide a personalized consent experience whereby users are guided through a consent document that utilizes avatars, contextual glossary information supplements, and videos, to facilitate communication of information.
The eConsent framework includes a portfolio of eight features, reviewed by community stakeholders, and tested at two academic medical centers.
Early adoption and utilization of this eConsent framework have demonstrated acceptability. Next steps will emphasize testing efficacy of features to improve participant engagement with the consent process.
Between 2001 and 2017, the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh conducted training and research in Belize built around an annual two-week field course, part of the Edinburgh M.Sc. programme in Biodiversity and Taxonomy of Plants, focused on tropical plant identification, botanical-collecting and tropical fieldwork skills. This long-term collaboration in one country has led to additional benefits, most notably capacity building, acquisition of new country records, completion of M.Sc. thesis projects and publication of the findings in journal articles, and continued cooperation. Detailed summaries are provided for the specimens collected by students during the field course or return visits to Belize for M.Sc. thesis projects. Additionally, 15 species not recorded in the national checklist for Belize are reported. The information in this paper highlights the benefits of collaborations between institutions and countries for periods greater than the typical funding cycles of three to five years.
The transmission rate of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) to gloves or gowns of healthcare personnel (HCP) caring for MRSA patients in a non–intensive care unit setting was 5.4%. Contamination rates were higher among HCP performing direct patient care and when patients had detectable MRSA on their body. These findings may inform risk-based contact precautions.
To determine sociodemographic factors associated with occupational, recreational and firearm-related noise exposure.
This nationally representative, multistage, stratified, cluster cross-sectional study sampled eligible National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey participants aged 20–69 years (n = 4675) about exposure to occupational and recreational noise and recurrent firearm usage, using a weighted multivariate logistic regression analysis.
Thirty-four per cent of participants had exposure to occupational noise and 12 per cent to recreational noise, and 13 per cent repeatedly used firearms. Males were more likely than females to have exposure to all three noise types (adjusted odds ratio range = 2.63–14.09). Hispanics and Asians were less likely to have exposure to the three noise types than Whites. Blacks were less likely than Whites to have occupational and recurrent firearm noise exposure. Those with insurance were 26 per cent less likely to have exposure to occupational noise than those without insurance (adjusted odds ratio = 0.74, 95 per cent confidence interval = 0.60–0.93).
Whites, males and uninsured people are more likely to have exposure to potentially hazardous loud noise.
Epidemiological studies indicate that individuals with one type of mental disorder have an increased risk of subsequently developing other types of mental disorders. This study aimed to undertake a comprehensive analysis of pair-wise lifetime comorbidity across a range of common mental disorders based on a diverse range of population-based surveys.
The WHO World Mental Health (WMH) surveys assessed 145 990 adult respondents from 27 countries. Based on retrospectively-reported age-of-onset for 24 DSM-IV mental disorders, associations were examined between all 548 logically possible temporally-ordered disorder pairs. Overall and time-dependent hazard ratios (HRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were calculated using Cox proportional hazards models. Absolute risks were estimated using the product-limit method. Estimates were generated separately for men and women.
Each prior lifetime mental disorder was associated with an increased risk of subsequent first onset of each other disorder. The median HR was 12.1 (mean = 14.4; range 5.2–110.8, interquartile range = 6.0–19.4). The HRs were most prominent between closely-related mental disorder types and in the first 1–2 years after the onset of the prior disorder. Although HRs declined with time since prior disorder, significantly elevated risk of subsequent comorbidity persisted for at least 15 years. Appreciable absolute risks of secondary disorders were found over time for many pairs.
Survey data from a range of sites confirms that comorbidity between mental disorders is common. Understanding the risks of temporally secondary disorders may help design practical programs for primary prevention of secondary disorders.
We studied the association between chlorhexidine gluconate (CHG) concentration on skin and resistant bacterial bioburden. CHG was almost always detected on the skin, and detection of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, and vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus on skin sites was infrequent. However, we found no correlation between CHG concentration and bacterial bioburden.
Iron deficiency is common in pregnant and lactating women and is associated with reduced cognitive development of the offspring. Since iron affects lipid metabolism, the availability of fatty acids, particularly the polyunsaturated fatty acids required for early neural development, was investigated in the offspring of female rats fed iron-deficient diets during gestation and lactation. Subsequent to the dams giving birth, one group of iron-deficient dams was recuperated by feeding an iron-replete diet. Dams and neonates were killed on postnatal days 1, 3 and 10, and the fatty acid composition of brain and stomach contents was assessed by gas chromatography. Changes in the fatty acid profile on day 3 became more pronounced on day 10 with a decrease in the proportion of saturated fatty acids and a compensatory increase in monounsaturated fatty acids. Long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids in the n-6 family were reduced, but there was no change in the n-3 family. The fatty acid profiles of neonatal brain and stomach contents were similar, suggesting that the change in milk composition may be related to the changes in the neonatal brain. When the dams were fed an iron-sufficient diet at birth, the effects of iron deficiency on the fatty acid composition of lipids in both dam’s milk and neonates’ brains were reduced. This study showed an interaction between maternal iron status and fatty acid composition of the offspring’s brain and suggests that these effects can be reduced by iron repletion of the dam’s diet at birth.
The COllaborative project of Development of Anthropometrical measures in Twins (CODATwins) project is a large international collaborative effort to analyze individual-level phenotype data from twins in multiple cohorts from different environments. The main objective is to study factors that modify genetic and environmental variation of height, body mass index (BMI, kg/m2) and size at birth, and additionally to address other research questions such as long-term consequences of birth size. The project started in 2013 and is open to all twin projects in the world having height and weight measures on twins with information on zygosity. Thus far, 54 twin projects from 24 countries have provided individual-level data. The CODATwins database includes 489,981 twin individuals (228,635 complete twin pairs). Since many twin cohorts have collected longitudinal data, there is a total of 1,049,785 height and weight observations. For many cohorts, we also have information on birth weight and length, own smoking behavior and own or parental education. We found that the heritability estimates of height and BMI systematically changed from infancy to old age. Remarkably, only minor differences in the heritability estimates were found across cultural–geographic regions, measurement time and birth cohort for height and BMI. In addition to genetic epidemiological studies, we looked at associations of height and BMI with education, birth weight and smoking status. Within-family analyses examined differences within same-sex and opposite-sex dizygotic twins in birth size and later development. The CODATwins project demonstrates the feasibility and value of international collaboration to address gene-by-exposure interactions that require large sample sizes and address the effects of different exposures across time, geographical regions and socioeconomic status.
We used a survey to characterize contemporary infection prevention and antibiotic stewardship program practices across 64 healthcare facilities, and we compared these findings to those of a similar 2013 survey. Notable findings include decreased frequency of active surveillance for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, frequent active surveillance for carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, and increased support for antibiotic stewardship programs.
To ascertain opinions regarding etiology and preventability of hospital-onset bacteremia and fungemia (HOB) and perspectives on HOB as a potential outcome measure reflecting quality of infection prevention and hospital care.
Hospital epidemiologists and infection preventionist members of the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA) Research Network.
A web-based, multiple-choice survey was administered via the SHEA Research Network to 133 hospitals.
A total of 89 surveys were completed (67% response rate). Overall, 60% of respondents defined HOB as a positive blood culture on or after hospital day 3. Central line-associated bloodstream infections and intra-abdominal infections were perceived as the most frequent etiologies. Moreover, 61% thought that most HOB events are preventable, and 54% viewed HOB as a measure reflecting a hospital’s quality of care. Also, 29% of respondents’ hospitals already collect HOB data for internal purposes. Given a choice to publicly report central-line–associated bloodstream infections (CLABSIs) and/or HOB, 57% favored reporting either HOB alone (22%) or in addition to CLABSI (35%) and 34% favored CLABSI alone.
Among the majority of SHEA Research Network respondents, HOB is perceived as preventable, reflective of quality of care, and potentially acceptable as a publicly reported quality metric. Further studies on HOB are needed, including validation as a quality measure, assessment of risk adjustment, and formation of evidence-based bundles and toolkits to facilitate measurement and improvement of HOB rates.
Englerophytum and Synsepalum are two closely related genera of trees and shrubs from the African tropics. Previous molecular studies have shown that these genera collectively form a clade within the subfamily Chrysophylloideae (Sapotaceae). However, little is known about the inter-relationships of the taxa within the Englerophytum–Synsepalum clade. In this study, nuclear ribosomal DNA and plastid trnH–psbA sequences were used to estimate the phylogeny within the clade. Results indicate that the clade consists of six major lineages, two composed solely of taxa from the genus Englerophytum and four composed of taxa from the genus Synsepalum. Each lineage can be distinguished by suites of vegetative and floral characters. Leaf venation patterns, calyx fusion, style length and staminodal structure were among the most useful characters for distinguishing clades. Some of the subclades within the Englerophytum–Synsepalum clade were also found to closely fit descriptions of former genera, most of which were described by Aubréville, that have since been placed in synonymy with Englerophytum and Synsepalum. The clade with the type species of Englerophytum also contains the type species of the genera Wildemaniodoxa and Zeyherella, which are confirmed as synonyms.
To enhance enrollment into randomized clinical trials (RCTs), we proposed electronic health record-based clinical decision support for patient–clinician shared decision-making about care and RCT enrollment, based on “mathematical equipoise.”
As an example, we created the Knee Osteoarthritis Mathematical Equipoise Tool (KOMET) to determine the presence of patient-specific equipoise between treatments for the choice between total knee replacement (TKR) and nonsurgical treatment of advanced knee osteoarthritis.
With input from patients and clinicians about important pain and physical function treatment outcomes, we created a database from non-RCT sources of knee osteoarthritis outcomes. We then developed multivariable linear regression models that predict 1-year individual-patient knee pain and physical function outcomes for TKR and for nonsurgical treatment. These predictions allowed detecting mathematical equipoise between these two options for patients eligible for TKR. Decision support software was developed to graphically illustrate, for a given patient, the degree of overlap of pain and functional outcomes between the treatments and was pilot tested for usability, responsiveness, and as support for shared decision-making.
The KOMET predictive regression model for knee pain had four patient-specific variables, and an r2 value of 0.32, and the model for physical functioning included six patient-specific variables, and an r2 of 0.34. These models were incorporated into prototype KOMET decision support software and pilot tested in clinics, and were generally well received.
Use of predictive models and mathematical equipoise may help discern patient-specific equipoise to support shared decision-making for selecting between alternative treatments and considering enrollment into an RCT.
A robust biomedical informatics infrastructure is essential for academic health centers engaged in translational research. There are no templates for what such an infrastructure encompasses or how it is funded. An informatics workgroup within the Clinical and Translational Science Awards network conducted an analysis to identify the scope, governance, and funding of this infrastructure. After we identified the essential components of an informatics infrastructure, we surveyed informatics leaders at network institutions about the governance and sustainability of the different components. Results from 42 survey respondents showed significant variations in governance and sustainability; however, some trends also emerged. Core informatics components such as electronic data capture systems, electronic health records data repositories, and related tools had mixed models of funding including, fee-for-service, extramural grants, and institutional support. Several key components such as regulatory systems (e.g., electronic Institutional Review Board [IRB] systems, grants, and contracts), security systems, data warehouses, and clinical trials management systems were overwhelmingly supported as institutional infrastructure. The findings highlighted in this report are worth noting for academic health centers and funding agencies involved in planning current and future informatics infrastructure, which provides the foundation for a robust, data-driven clinical and translational research program.
Twenty-seven species and two subspecies of Ficus are reported from one study site in central Africa. Characters for identification are explained. An identification key, illustrations, descriptions and habitats are provided. The species-level diversity of Ficus in tropical forests is discussed.