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Shu-Hua Wang, MD, MPH&TM, PharmD

Award Name KL2

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Examining MRSA Bloodstream Infections in Franklin County

The Center for Clinical and Translational Science has awarded Shu-Hua Wang, MD, MPH&TM, PharmD, a KL2 Scholar Award. Wang will use the award to identify and examine the incidence of Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) bloodstream infections in Franklin County. Most MRSA infections are skin infections transmitted through contact or shared items of an already infected or colonized individual.

In the past, Wang has had experience with contact investigation and genotyping of tuberculosis. She became intrigued when she came across two people with the same strain of tuberculosis in her research. This finding later inspired Wang to engage in similar research identifying the links between MRSA patients who have the same strain.

Wang is working under the direction of mentor Kurt Stevenson, MD, MPH, to look at MRSA blood isolates in Franklin County. Approximately 800 total MRSA blood samples will be taken from the following hospitals: The Ohio State University Medical Center, Nationwide Children’s Hospital, the Ohio Health System, and Mount Carmel Health Care System.

When a MRSA outbreak is reported, Columbus Public Health provides molecular genotyping as part of a new protocol. This allows Wang and her collaborators to determine clinical characteristics, molecular genotypes, and geographic distribution of each blood sample.

By looking at the strains from multiple hospitals, Wang can identify where certain strains are predominant.

“We are trying to find if there are certain prevalent strains that are hospital based or community based,” Wang said.

In order to find the common link between cases of MRSA, the Columbus Public Health surveillance team will interview the index case and their contacts to determine medical risk factors and recommend appropriate medical attention.

Determining the common links and the origin of outbreaks are key factors in predicting future infections.

“We will be able to look at where [prevalent cases] are lighting up and try to predict and prevent possible future outbreaks,” Wang said.

Wang and colleagues have recently been awarded another CCTS Community Engagement Grant (PI: Kurt Stevenson, MD, MPH and Dwight Powell, MD, Co-I Wang and Armando Hoet, DVM). This research will focus on helping patients with recurring MRSA infections. The reason for recurrence in infections is unknown and can be tiresome to both doctors and patients.

“They can’t get rid of [the infections] even when doctors prescribe things to treat and decolonize them,” Wang said.

It is likely that MRSA can be found in the environment and in companion pets. Wang believes that if they can find where the initial MRSA infection lives, they could decolonize it and give relief to patients with recurring infections.

The research team will conduct home assessments of people with recurring infections, and will screen the environment and animals with which the patient has come in close contact.

Once the living place of the infection is found, the research team could be able to decolonize it, giving comfort to patients who were once tired of recurring infections.

“This could offer them some glimmer of diagnostic hope,” Wang said.

By Becky King, Monday, August 30, 2010

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