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University of Maryland School of Medicine Researchers to Study Spread of Bacteria in Nursing Homes

November 01, 2017 | Joanne Morrison

Mary-Claire Roghmann, MD, MS

Researchers Receive Federal Grant to Study Strategy to Prevent Spread of Staph

Nursing homes are settings with a high prevalence of Staphylococcus aureus (Staph) bacteria, leading to infection and sometimes death in patients. This is a key concern, particularly as there is a growing number of bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics such as methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA), making it difficult to treat infections. The current standard of care for preventing the spread of Staph in nursing homes in the U.S. is for healthcare workers to use gowns and gloves when there is expected contact with blood and other bodily fluids. Researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UM SOM) will study whether a targeted increase in the use of gowns and gloves is effective in preventing and controlling spread of the dangerous bacteria.

“Nursing homes are very different environments from acute care hospitals. In hospitals, all health care workers who work with patients with MRSA wear a gown and gloves for every care interaction. This is impractical and socially isolating for nursing home residents,” said Mary-Claire Roghmann, MD, MS, Professor of Epidemiology and Public Health and the Principal Investigator in the one-year study that is funded by a $431,746 grant awarded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “We are trying to tailor protective measures to this particular setting so that the practice is sustainable” said Dr. Roghmann.

UM SOM was one of several institutions across the country that will participate in CDC-funded studies with funding of over $9 million dollars.

Partnering with two Baltimore-area nursing homes from Lorien Health Systems, UM SOM researchers will measure over the course of a year if the spread of the bacteria can be reduced by having healthcare workers wear gowns and gloves during specific moments of care for high-risk residents. This would include during times when a resident is being dressed, having a wound dressed, having briefs or undergarments changed, having bed linens changed or being transferred from a bed to a chair. High risk residents would include those with wounds and invasive medical devices such as urinary catheters.

Dr. Roghmann said the research is critical because nursing homes care for both short-term and long-term residents. While some residents are there to receive rehabilitation with the goal of returning home, many are there permanently, and nursing homes serve as their home. “Part of the therapeutic value of nursing homes is that they provide a more home-like environment than a hospital or acute care facility. However, nursing homes are also dedicated to providing a safe environment, which includes keeping residents infection-free,” said Dr. Roghmann.

Ultimately, UM SOM researchers hope to determine if this targeted approach will be an effective tool in reducing spread of bacteria without reducing the unique style of care at nursing homes.

“Our researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine have been at the forefront of developing strategies and treatments for antibiotic-resistant infections. This research builds upon the important standards we have set globally for disease prevention and control,” said E. Albert Reece, MD, PhD, MBA, vice president for medical affairs at the University of Maryland and the John Z. and Akiko K. Bowers Distinguished Professor and dean of the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

About the University of Maryland School of Medicine

Commemorating its 210th Anniversary, the University of Maryland School of Medicine was chartered in 1807 as the first public medical school in the United States. It continues today as one of the fastest growing, top-tier biomedical research enterprises in the world -- with 43 academic departments, centers, institutes, and programs; and a faculty of more than 3,000 physicians, scientists, and allied health professionals, including members of the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine, and a distinguished recipient of the Albert E. Lasker Award in Medical Research. With an operating budget of more than $1 billion, the School of Medicine works closely in partnership with the University of Maryland Medical Center and Medical System to provide research-intensive, academic and clinically-based care for more than 1.2 million patients each year. The School has over 2,500 students, residents, and fellows, and nearly $450 million in extramural funding, with more than half of its academic departments ranked in the top 20 among all public medical schools in the nation in research funding. As one of the seven professional schools that make up the University of Maryland, Baltimore campus, the School of Medicine has a total workforce of nearly 7,000 individuals. The combined School and Medical System (“University of Maryland Medicine”) has a total budget of $5 billion and an economic impact of nearly $15 billion on the state and local community. The School of Medicine faculty, which ranks as the 8th-highest public medical school in research productivity, is an innovator in translational medicine with 600 active patents and 24 start-up companies. The School works locally, nationally, and globally, with research and treatment facilities in 36 countries around the world. Visit

Learn More

• Department of Epidemiology and Public Health

• Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


Department of Anesthesiology
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University of Maryland School of Medicine
Joanne Morrison
Director of Marketing and Public Relations
University of Maryland School of Medicine
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