Meet Your Roommates at Our New Hospital

The first patients at our new Center for Care and Discovery will move in on February 23, but they’ll have some roommates already. At the PLOS Public Health Perspectives blog, Beth Skwarecki writes about environmental microbiologist Jack Gilbert’s Hospital Microbiome Project to track the microbes growing in our new hospital:

A microbial community has to come from somewhere, and unless you could autoclave a whole building, there’s no such thing as a blank slate. Your house or apartment begins to take on your personal microbial fingerprint after a few days. What about your hospital room?

Later this month the doors will open on a new hospital in Chicago. It will be already colonized with microbes from its building materials, from the contractors that worked there and the people who toured it during construction; from the dirt and airborne particles that make their way in to all buildings; and other sources besides (like the tap water that flows in every day).

What’s unique about this hospital is that some of those microbes have already been collected and analyzed, and for the next year, an enthusiastic team with a lot of Q-tips is going to swab surfaces in the hospital with an eye to how the bacterial communities change from place to place, and patient to patient.

Science Life wrote about the project after a talk by Gilbert in December, and we even tagged along with his colleague Dan Smith to shoot video as he collected samples (see above). And as if they weren’t big enough rock stars already, the Chicago Tribune ran a front page feature on Gilbert’s team. It’s a fascinating project, even if it makes us think twice about touching that doorknob.

About Matt Wood (531 Articles)
Matt Wood is a senior science writer and manager of communications at the University of Chicago Medicine & Biological Sciences Division.
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