Stanford scientists use bioinformatics to trace hospital-acquired bloodstream infections to patients' digestive tracts

Researchers at Stanford (Calif.) University found hospital-acquired bloodstream infections are often caused by a patient's digestive tract, according to a small study published by Nature Medicine.

 For the study, researchers used bioinformatics software to analyze blood and stool samples from 30 patients who developed a bloodstream infection after receiving a bone-marrow transplant between October 2015 and June 2017. Researchers also analyzed each patient's entire gene sequence.

Many of the bloodstream infections started in a patient's body, often in the large intestine. Researchers found 15 patients' stool samples revealed detectable levels of the same bacterial strain responsible for their bloodstream infections.

"Until now, we couldn't pinpoint those sources with high confidence," Ami Bhatt, MD, assistant professor of hematology and genetics at Stanford University, said in a press release."That's a problem because when a patient has a bloodstream infection, it's not enough simply to administer broad-spectrum antibiotics. You need to treat the source, or the infection will come back."

Researchers found little evidence of a pathogen from one patient's bloodstream infection matching bacterial strains in other patients' blood or stool.

"I don't think we're passing around active infections among one another as often as has been assumed," Dr. Bhatt said in the press release. "Our results suggest that people are the most likely source of their own infections. Maybe we need to get rid of this idea of 'catching' others' infections, and give more thought to the health of our own resident microbial ecosystems."

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