Research Aims to Reduce Transmission of Infection

With graduation behind him, Jayant Velagala 2013, a Mathematics major, is busy preparing for his first year in University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey -New Jersey Medical School this September.

Jayant Velagala 2013

Jayant Velagala 2013

He will begin his medical school studies with rigorous research experience acquired at Ursinus. As a student, he focused on creating models that mathematically incorporate hospital conditions and illustrate how hospital-acquired infections can be controlled and prevented. The hope, says Velagala, is that the models eventually serve as useful tools to various hospitals and ICU’s providing insights into how best to implement preventive measures.

“In a system that currently aims to limit healthcare costs and increase efficiency, there has been a shift in emphasis towards the prevention of disease caused by Antibiotic-Resistant Infections,” says Velagala, who worked with Mohammed Yahdi, Associate Professor of Mathematics. Yahdi presented at the International Conference on Antibiotic-Resistant Infections: Mathematical Modeling, Transmission Dynamics and Control in 2012. The conference, sponsored by the National Science Foundation, was held at the University of Miami in December. Yahdi’s talk was titled, “Parameter Analysis and Optimal Control of a VRE Model,” and was based on research that involved Ursinus students.

Why the Research Matters:

Nosocomial infections claim about 100,000 lives per year and are due to the spread of antibiotic resistant bacteria throughout the intensive care unit. About one-third of infections contracted in (ICU’s) are caused by Vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE).

“Of the many preventive measures used to reduce the incidence of these infections, we are interested in the use of chlorhexidine baths, which reduces transmission between health care workers, hospital surfaces and patients by reducing the density of skin colonization of these bacteria,” says Valagala.

The models are comprehensive in that they can give a global view, he says, but can also look at the progress of an individual though an ICU and the daily risk of acquiring an infection given the appropriate VRE dynamics.  Stochastic differential equations and  Time-Markov Chain modeling approaches were used to  incorporate the uncertainty and randomness intrinsic in this context. Ideally, the models show at what stages and under what parameters, chlorhexidine baths can be most effective in the prevention of VRE infections.

“Doing this can reduce contact contamination between patients, health care workers and medical equipment,” he says. “Previous studies have shown that the use of chlorhexidine baths and hydrogen peroxide vapors have reduced VRE infections in ICU’s by at least 50 percent.”