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Background: Traditional hospital outbreak-detection methods are typically limited to select multidrug-resistant pathogens in a single unit, which can miss transmission of many medically important healthcare-transmissible pathogens. Whole-genome sequencing (WGS) enables comprehensive genomic resolution for accurate identification of clonal transmission. Previously, lack of scalability limited the use of WGS for hospital surveillance. Methods: We conducted prospective surveillance of select bacteria from all inpatient clinical cultures plus all bacteria from clinical cultures from ICUs and oncology units at the University of California Irvine (UCI) Clinical Microbiology Laboratory from September 2021 to February 2022. Due to pandemic stressors, this pilot test was a prelude to a real-time demonstration project. Its goal was to demonstrate the efficiency and scalability of the WGS platform when receiving samples monthly and analyzing results quarterly without the intent for real-time response. Bacterial isolates slated for discard were collected weekly and sent monthly to Day Zero Diagnostics for sequencing. In total, 1,036 samples from 926 patients were analyzed for genomic relatedness, a scalable and automated analysis pipeline already in use for rapid (days) characterization of genomic-relatedness in small and large sets of isolates. Mapping and SNP calling was performed against high-quality, best-match reference genomes. Sets of samples with pairwise distance of 2 persons with genomically related isolates and were denoted as “clusters.” Separately, we also investigated within-patient diversity by quantifying the genomic relatedness of isolates collected from individual patients. Results: Isolates represented 28 distinct species. We identified 10 Escherichia coli clusters (range, 2–4 patients; median, 2 patients), 2 Klebsiella pneumoniae clusters (range, 2–4 patients), and 1 Enterococcus faecium cluster (3 patients). All but 1 involved genomically matched isolates from multiple hospital locations. There were 4 Escherichia coli ST131 clusters spanning 4 months, including 1 with 4 patients across 3 different hospital locations. At a species level, there were distinct differences between the observed SNP distances between samples isolated from the same versus different patients (Fig. 1). All identified clusters had not been flagged by routine outbreak detection methods used by the UCI infection prevention program. Conclusions: Comprehensive WGS-based surveillance of hospital clinical isolates identified multiple potential transmission events between patients not in the same unit at the time cultures were taken. Combining WGS detection and real-time epidemiologic investigation may identify new avenues of transmission risk and could provide early warnings of clonal transmission to prevent larger outbreaks. High-volume surveillance of hospital isolates can also provide species- and context-specific clonality.
Financial support: This study was funded by Day Zero Diagnostics.
To describe the genomic analysis and epidemiologic response related to a slow and prolonged methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) outbreak.
Prospective observational study.
Neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).
We conducted an epidemiologic investigation of a NICU MRSA outbreak involving serial baby and staff screening to identify opportunities for decolonization. Whole-genome sequencing was performed on MRSA isolates.
A NICU with excellent hand hygiene compliance and longstanding minimal healthcare-associated infections experienced an MRSA outbreak involving 15 babies and 6 healthcare personnel (HCP). In total, 12 cases occurred slowly over a 1-year period (mean, 30.7 days apart) followed by 3 additional cases 7 months later. Multiple progressive infection prevention interventions were implemented, including contact precautions and cohorting of MRSA-positive babies, hand hygiene observers, enhanced environmental cleaning, screening of babies and staff, and decolonization of carriers. Only decolonization of HCP found to be persistent carriers of MRSA was successful in stopping transmission and ending the outbreak. Genomic analyses identified bidirectional transmission between babies and HCP during the outbreak.
In comparison to fast outbreaks, outbreaks that are “slow and sustained” may be more common to units with strong existing infection prevention practices such that a series of breaches have to align to result in a case. We identified a slow outbreak that persisted among staff and babies and was only stopped by identifying and decolonizing persistent MRSA carriage among staff. A repeated decolonization regimen was successful in allowing previously persistent carriers to safely continue work duties.
To evaluate the National Health Safety Network (NHSN) hospital-onset Clostridioides difficile infection (HO-CDI) standardized infection ratio (SIR) risk adjustment for general acute-care hospitals with large numbers of intensive care unit (ICU), oncology unit, and hematopoietic cell transplant (HCT) patients.
Retrospective cohort study.
Eight tertiary-care referral general hospitals in California.
We used FY 2016 data and the published 2015 rebaseline NHSN HO-CDI SIR. We compared facility-wide inpatient HO-CDI events and SIRs, with and without ICU data, oncology and/or HCT unit data, and ICU bed adjustment.
For these hospitals, the median unmodified HO-CDI SIR was 1.24 (interquartile range [IQR], 1.15–1.34); 7 hospitals qualified for the highest ICU bed adjustment; 1 hospital received the second highest ICU bed adjustment; and all had oncology-HCT units with no additional adjustment per the NHSN. Removal of ICU data and the ICU bed adjustment decreased HO-CDI events (median, −25%; IQR, −20% to −29%) but increased the SIR at all hospitals (median, 104%; IQR, 90%–105%). Removal of oncology-HCT unit data decreased HO-CDI events (median, −15%; IQR, −14% to −21%) and decreased the SIR at all hospitals (median, −8%; IQR, −4% to −11%).
For tertiary-care referral hospitals with specialized ICUs and a large number of ICU beds, the ICU bed adjustor functions as a global adjustment in the SIR calculation, accounting for the increased complexity of patients in ICUs and non-ICUs at these facilities. However, the SIR decrease with removal of oncology and HCT unit data, even with the ICU bed adjustment, suggests that an additional adjustment should be considered for oncology and HCT units within general hospitals, perhaps similar to what is done for ICU beds in the current SIR.