uBiome and CDC Partner to Study Hospital Acquired Infections

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Health care-Associated Infections (HAIs) are a major, yet often preventable, threat to patient safety. uBiome is partnering with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in a unique research collaboration which will sample and analyze the gut bacteria of patients before, during, and at the end of hospital stays, in order to better understand how intestinal microbes are affected during an admission to a health care facility.

uBiome, a leading microbial genomics company, has partnered with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to study hospital-associated infections, a major, often preventable threat to patient safety. Under the agreement, which represents one of the first industry/government partnerships in microbiome research, uBiome will carry out rDNA sequencing of thousands of patient fecal samples before, during and at the end of hospital stays. The study will explore changes in intestinal microbes, in order to continue CDC’s work in assessing the degree to which a patient’s microbiota is disrupted while receiving medical treatment, and in developing CDC-designed diagnostic tools known as Microbiome Disruption Indices (MDIs).

Disruption of the microbiome during medical care is particularly associated with receipt of antibiotics. However, receipt of other drugs, weakened immune systems, and some severe illnesses can all alter the normal mix of bacteria and lower the body’s natural defense against invading pathogens. Often the invading bacteria acquired in hospitals are resistant to multiple antibiotics; microbiome disruption can allow them to gain a foothold in the intestines where they multiply and become dominant over other species. This can result in transmission to other patients, thereby spreading resistance, and/or causing an infection.

”Though currently at the earliest stages of development, MDIs have the potential to transform health care, as they can serve as an early-warning system for infection risk, allowing patients to receive earlier treatment, and limit spread of infection,” said Jessica Richman, CEO of uBiome.

CDC sees the development of MDIs as critically important. “It is not an overstatement that the development and use of MDIs in patient management have the potential to revolutionize current infection control and MDROs [Multi Drug-Resistant Organisms] prevention in all of health care,” said Dr. L. Clifford McDonald, one of CDC’s experts focused on the role of microbiome in infectious disease and patient health.

Health care-Associated Infections (HAIs), present significant challenges. According to CDC figures, around one in 25 hospital patients in the United States has at least one HAI on any given day, and every year approximately 75,000 patients with HAIs die during their hospitalizations. A growing proportion of these infections are due to resistant pathogens such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus and multidrug-resistant gram-negative bacilli.

uBiome has developed a proprietary microbiome testing process enabling fast turnaround of large volumes of clinical samples and specialized analysis. The human microbiome is a term that describes the microorganisms that that live in and on the human body. Health problems may result from disruption to the balance of the microbiome, which is what the new CDC/uBiome partnership will explore.                                                                    

Dr. Zachary Apte, CTO and co-founder of uBiome adds: “For the first time it’s realistic to conceive of affordable monitoring in real-time. A patient of the future might easily have his/her microbiome tracked alongside the usual four primary vitals (body temperature, blood pressure, pulse, and respiratory rate). MDIs might well become the fifth vital sign. uBiome’s rDNA sequencing builds on the pioneering work of the NIH-sponsored Human Microbiome Project, which enabled uBiome to cut the cost of microbiome sequencing from millions of dollars ten years ago to less than $100 today.”         

uBiome’s scientific advisory board includes Dr. Joseph DeRisi, HHMI Professor of Biochemistry at the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) and Macarthur Genius Award Winner; Dr. Jonathan Eisen, Leading Microbiome Researcher and Professor of Microbiology at the University of California, Davis, and many other noted researchers.

About uBiome

Technologists from UCSF and Stanford launched uBiome in 2012 after a crowdfunding campaign raised over $350,000 from citizen scientists, roughly tripling the initial goal. uBiome is funded by Andreesen Horowitz, Y Combinator, and other leading investors. The company’s mission is to use big data to understand the human microbiome by giving consumers the power to learn about their bodies, perform experiments, and see how current research studies apply to them.

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Jessica Richman
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