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This SHEA white paper identifies knowledge gaps and challenges in healthcare epidemiology research related to coronavirus disease 2019 (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 supplementary 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.
The first demonstration of laser action in ruby was made in 1960 by T. H. Maiman of Hughes Research Laboratories, USA. Many laboratories worldwide began the search for lasers using different materials, operating at different wavelengths. In the UK, academia, industry and the central laboratories took up the challenge from the earliest days to develop these systems for a broad range of applications. This historical review looks at the contribution the UK has made to the advancement of the technology, the development of systems and components and their exploitation over the last 60 years.
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.
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.
Mental disorders cause high burden in adolescents, but adolescents often underutilise potentially beneficial treatments. Perceived need for and barriers to care may influence whether adolescents utilise services and which treatments they receive. Adolescents and parents are stakeholders in adolescent mental health care, but their perceptions regarding need for and barriers to care might differ. Understanding patterns of adolescent-parent agreement might help identify gaps in adolescent mental health care.
A nationally representative sample of Australian adolescents aged 13–17 and their parents (N = 2310), recruited between 2013–2014, were asked about perceived need for four types of adolescent mental health care (counselling, medication, information and skill training) and barriers to care. Perceived need was categorised as fully met, partially met, unmet, or no need. Cohen's kappa was used to assess adolescent-parent agreement. Multinomial logistic regressions were used to model variables associated with patterns of agreement.
Almost half (46.5% (s.e. = 1.21)) of either adolescents or parents reported a perceived need for any type of care. For both groups, perceived need was greatest for counselling and lowest for medication. Identified needs were fully met for a third of adolescents. Adolescent-parent agreement on perceived need was fair (kappa = 0.25 (s.e. = 0.01)), but poor regarding the extent to which needs were met (kappa = −0.10 (s.e. = 0.02)). The lack of parental knowledge about adolescents' feelings was positively associated with adolescent-parent agreement that needs were partially met or unmet and disagreement about perceived need, compared to agreement that needs were fully met (relative risk ratio (RRR) = 1.91 (95% CI = 1.19–3.04) to RRR = 4.69 (95% CI = 2.38–9.28)). Having a probable disorder was positively associated with adolescent-parent agreement that needs were partially met or unmet (RRR = 2.86 (95% CI = 1.46–5.61)), and negatively with adolescent-parent disagreement on perceived need (RRR = 0.50 (95% CI = 0.30–0.82)). Adolescents reported most frequently attitudinal barriers to care (e.g. self-reliance: 55.1% (s.e. = 2.39)); parents most frequently reported that their child refused help (38.7% (s.e. = 2.69)). Adolescent-parent agreement was poor for attitudinal (kappa = −0.03 (s.e. = 0.06)) and slight for structural barriers (kappa = 0.02 (s.e. = 0.09)).
There are gaps in the extent to which adolescent mental health care is meeting the needs of adolescents and their parents. It seems important to align adolescents' and parents' needs at the beginning and throughout treatment and to improve communication between adolescents and their parents. Both might provide opportunities to increase the likelihood that needs will be fully met. Campaigns directed towards adolescents and parents need to address different barriers to care. For adolescents, attitudinal barriers such as stigma and mental health literacy require attention.
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.
In cluster-randomized trials (CRT), groups rather than individuals are randomized to interventions. The aim of this study was to present critical design, implementation, and analysis issues to consider when planning a CRT in the healthcare setting and to synthesize characteristics of published CRT in the field of healthcare epidemiology.
A systematic review was conducted to identify CRT with infection control outcomes.
We identified the following 7 epidemiological principles: (1) identify design type and justify the use of CRT; (2) account for clustering when estimating sample size and report intraclass correlation coefficient (ICC)/coefficient of variation (CV); (3) obtain consent; (4) define level of inference; (5) consider matching and/or stratification; (6) minimize bias and/or contamination; and (7) account for clustering in the analysis. Among 44 included studies, the most common design was CRT with crossover (n = 15, 34%), followed by parallel CRT (n = 11, 25%) and stratified CRT (n = 7, 16%). Moreover, 22 studies (50%) offered justification for their use of CRT, and 20 studies (45%) demonstrated that they accounted for clustering at the design phase. Only 15 studies (34%) reported the ICC, CV, or design effect. Also, 15 studies (34%) obtained waivers of consent, and 7 (16%) sought consent at the cluster level. Only 17 studies (39%) matched or stratified at randomization, and 10 studies (23%) did not report efforts to mitigate bias and/or contamination. Finally, 29 studies (88%) accounted for clustering in their analyses.
We must continue to improve the design and reporting of CRT to better evaluate the effectiveness of infection control interventions in the healthcare setting.
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.
To determine which healthcare worker (HCW) roles and patient care activities are associated with acquisition of vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus (VRE) on HCW gloves or gowns after patient care, as a surrogate for transmission to other patients.
Prospective cohort study.
Medical and surgical intensive care units at a tertiary-care academic institution.
VRE-colonized patients on Contact Precautions and their HCWs.
Overall, 94 VRE-colonized patients and 469 HCW–patient interactions were observed. Research staff recorded patient care activities and cultured HCW gloves and gowns for VRE before doffing and exiting patient room.
VRE were isolated from 71 of 469 HCWs’ gloves or gowns (15%) following patient care. Occupational/physical therapists, patient care technicians, nurses, and physicians were more likely than environmental services workers and other HCWs to have contaminated gloves or gowns. Compared to touching the environment alone, the odds ratio (OR) for VRE contamination associated with touching both the patient (or objects in the immediate vicinity of the patient) and environment was 2.78 (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.99–0.77) and the OR associated with touching only the patient (or objects in the immediate vicinity) was 3.65 (95% CI, 1.17–11.41). Independent risk factors for transmission of VRE to HCWs were touching the patient’s skin (OR, 2.18; 95% CI, 1.15–4.13) and transferring the patient into or out of bed (OR, 2.66; 95% CI, 1.15–6.43).
Patient contact is a major risk factor for HCW contamination and subsequent transmission. Interventions should prioritize contact precautions and hand hygiene for HCWs whose activities involve touching the patient.
The Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) is caused by a novel coronavirus discovered in 2012. Since then, 1806 cases, including 564 deaths, have been reported by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) and affected countries as of 1 June 2016. Previous literature attributed increases in MERS-CoV transmission to camel breeding season as camels are likely the reservoir for the virus. However, this literature review and subsequent analysis indicate a lack of seasonality. A retrospective, epidemiological cluster analysis was conducted to investigate increases in MERS-CoV transmission and reports of household and nosocomial clusters. Cases were verified and associations between cases were substantiated through an extensive literature review and the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch's Tiered Source Classification System. A total of 51 clusters were identified, primarily nosocomial (80·4%) and most occurred in KSA (45·1%). Clusters corresponded temporally with the majority of periods of greatest incidence, suggesting a strong correlation between nosocomial transmission and notable increases in cases.
Whether monozygotic (MZ) and dizygotic (DZ) twins differ from each other in a variety of phenotypes is important for genetic twin modeling and for inferences made from twin studies in general. We analyzed whether there were differences in individual, maternal and paternal education between MZ and DZ twins in a large pooled dataset. Information was gathered on individual education for 218,362 adult twins from 27 twin cohorts (53% females; 39% MZ twins), and on maternal and paternal education for 147,315 and 143,056 twins respectively, from 28 twin cohorts (52% females; 38% MZ twins). Together, we had information on individual or parental education from 42 twin cohorts representing 19 countries. The original education classifications were transformed to education years and analyzed using linear regression models. Overall, MZ males had 0.26 (95% CI [0.21, 0.31]) years and MZ females 0.17 (95% CI [0.12, 0.21]) years longer education than DZ twins. The zygosity difference became smaller in more recent birth cohorts for both males and females. Parental education was somewhat longer for fathers of DZ twins in cohorts born in 1990–1999 (0.16 years, 95% CI [0.08, 0.25]) and 2000 or later (0.11 years, 95% CI [0.00, 0.22]), compared with fathers of MZ twins. The results show that the years of both individual and parental education are largely similar in MZ and DZ twins. We suggest that the socio-economic differences between MZ and DZ twins are so small that inferences based upon genetic modeling of twin data are not affected.
To determine whether patients using the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Hospital Compare website (http://medicare.gov/hospitalcompare) can use nationally reported healthcare-associated infection (HAI) data to differentiate hospitals.
Secondary analysis of publicly available HAI data for calendar year 2013.
We assessed the availability of HAI data for geographically proximate hospitals (ie, hospitals within the same referral region) and then analyzed these data to determine whether they are useful to differentiate hospitals. We assessed data for the 6 HAIs reported by hospitals to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Data were analyzed for 4,561 hospitals representing 88% of registered community and federal government hospitals in the United States. Healthcare-associated infection data are only useful for comparing hospitals if they are available for multiple hospitals within a geographic region. We found that data availability differed by HAI. Clostridium difficile infections (CDI) data were most available, with 82% of geographic regions (ie, hospital referral regions) having >50% of hospitals reporting them. In contrast, 4% of geographic regions had >50% of member hospitals reporting surgical site infections (SSI) for hysterectomies, which had the lowest availability. The ability of HAI data to differentiate hospitals differed by HAI: 72% of hospital referral regions had at least 1 pair of hospitals with statistically different risk-adjusted CDI rates (SIRs), compared to 9% for SSI (hysterectomy).
HAI data generally are reported by enough hospitals to meet minimal criteria for useful comparisons in many geographic locations, though this varies by type of HAI. CDI and catheter-associated urinary tract infection (CAUTI) are more likely to differentiate hospitals than the other publicly reported HAIs.
Cognitive deficits are a core feature of schizophrenia, and impairments in most domains are thought to be stable over the course of the illness. However, cross-sectional evidence indicates that some areas of cognition, such as visuospatial associative memory, may be preserved in the early stages of psychosis, but become impaired in later established illness stages. This longitudinal study investigated change in visuospatial and verbal associative memory following psychosis onset.
In total 95 first-episode psychosis (FEP) patients and 63 healthy controls (HC) were assessed on neuropsychological tests at baseline, with 38 FEP and 22 HCs returning for follow-up assessment at 5–11 years. Visuospatial associative memory was assessed using the Cambridge Neuropsychological Test Automated Battery Visuospatial Paired-Associate Learning task, and verbal associative memory was assessed using Verbal Paired Associates subtest of the Wechsler Memory Scale - Revised.
Visuospatial and verbal associative memory at baseline did not differ significantly between FEP patients and HCs. However, over follow-up, visuospatial associative memory deteriorated significantly for the FEP group, relative to healthy individuals. Conversely, verbal associative memory improved to a similar degree observed in HCs. In the FEP cohort, visuospatial (but not verbal) associative memory ability at baseline was associated with functional outcome at follow-up.
Areas of cognition that develop prior to psychosis onset, such as visuospatial and verbal associative memory, may be preserved early in the illness. Later deterioration in visuospatial memory ability may relate to progressive structural and functional brain abnormalities that occurs following psychosis onset.
Currently it is estimated that about 1 billion people globally have non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), a condition in which liver fat exceeds 5 % of liver weight in the absence of significant alcohol intake. Due to the central role of the liver in metabolism, the prevalence of NAFLD is increasing in parallel with the prevalence of obesity, insulin resistance and other risk factors of metabolic diseases. However, the contribution of liver fat to the risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus and CVD, relative to other ectopic fat depots and to other risk markers, is unclear. Various studies have suggested that the accumulation of liver fat can be reduced or prevented via dietary changes. However, the amount of liver fat reduction that would be physiologically relevant, and the timeframes and dose–effect relationships for achieving this through different diet-based approaches, are unclear. Also, it is still uncertain whether the changes in liver fat per se or the associated metabolic changes are relevant. Furthermore, the methods available to measure liver fat, or even individual fatty acids, differ in sensitivity and reliability. The present report summarises key messages of presentations from different experts and related discussions from a workshop intended to capture current views and research gaps relating to the points above.
Introduction: Point of care ultrasound (PoCUS) has become an established tool in the initial management of patients with undifferentiated hypotension in the emergency department (ED). Current established protocols (e.g. RUSH and ACES) were developed by expert user opinion, rather than objective, prospective data. Recently the SHoC Protocol was published, recommending 3 core scans; cardiac, lung, and IVC; plus other scans when indicated clinically. We report the abnormal ultrasound findings from our international multicenter randomized controlled trial, to assess if the recommended 3 core SHoC protocol scans were chosen appropriately for this population. Methods: Recruitment occurred at seven centres in North America (4) and South Africa (3). Screening at triage identified patients (SBP<100 or shock index>1) who were randomized to PoCUS or control (standard care with no PoCUS) groups. All scans were performed by PoCUS-trained physicians within one hour of arrival in the ED. Demographics, clinical details and study findings were collected prospectively. A threshold incidence for positive findings of 10% was established as significant for the purposes of assessing the appropriateness of the core recommendations. Results: 138 patients had a PoCUS screen completed. All patients had cardiac, lung, IVC, aorta, abdominal, and pelvic scans. Reported abnormal findings included hyperdynamic LV function (59; 43%); small collapsing IVC (46; 33%); pericardial effusion (24; 17%); pleural fluid (19; 14%); hypodynamic LV function (15; 11%); large poorly collapsing IVC (13; 9%); peritoneal fluid (13; 9%); and aortic aneurysm (5; 4%). Conclusion: The 3 core SHoC Protocol recommendations included appropriate scans to detect all pathologies recorded at a rate of greater than 10 percent. The 3 most frequent findings were cardiac and IVC abnormalities, followed by lung. It is noted that peritoneal fluid was seen at a rate of 9%. Aortic aneurysms were rare. This data from the first RCT to compare PoCUS to standard care for undifferentiated hypotensive ED patients, supports the use of the prioritized SHoC protocol, though a larger study is required to confirm these findings.