Although the MMM group is now working in several different areas, our first project – which still remains very important – is using a bug’s genetic code to work out whether and how it is being passed from person to person. If we can work out more accurately exactly how bugs are being transmitted around hospitals, then we can design better, more targeted, interventions to stop this.
We have already shown that much less, only about one-third, of C. diff is transmitted between patients in hospitals – previously people thought that this was nearly 100%. However, this study used bugs which had been stored in freezers and old data about which wards people had been in. We are now trying to sequence a bug’s genetic code as quickly as possible from when a sample (like blood) is taken from a patient, and then see which other bugs in the hospital it is closest to in terms of the bugs’ genetic data. We then look to see how the bugs might have been passed from one patient to another – and ask infection control nurses whether and how this information is useful for stopping more transmission. To do this, we use the routine electronic data collected on everyone who comes into the Oxfordshire hospitals, and link it together with the bugs’ genetic data. We do not look at any human genetic data, only information about which wards people have been in, what doctors they saw, and what happened to them in hospital.
If you have any concerns regarding your data or your relatives’ data being used for this research please email dona. foster [at] ndm.ox.ac.uk to discuss this with a member of the team