Infectious Disease Epidemiology

From its inception in 1983, the Division has performed extensive research on defining the problems of and developing solutions to hospital-acquired (nosocomial) infections.  This involved surveys in nationwide samples of US hospitals studied in the Study on the Efficacy of Nosocomial Infection Control (SENIC Project).  The results of this research have contributed to the scientific basis for using targeted surveillance techniques to reduce nosocomial infection risks in hospitals.

Starting in the early 1990s the Division has conducted a large study to define the modes of transmission of hepatitis C virus (HCV), which has become the largest chronic viral disease epidemic in U.S. history. The study confirmed the causal role of injection drug use and defined the importance of HCV transmission in commercial tattoo parlors and to healthcare workers in hospitals.

Immediately after September 11, 2001, the Division focused research efforts on developing effective responses to bioterrorist attacks with microbiological agents such as anthrax, smallpox, plague, and botulinum toxin. This led to coordinated planning for basic research in combating biowarfare pathogens, training physicians on recognition and treatment, and educating the public on responding effectively to bioterrorism attacks.

Recent biochemical studies have focused on discovering how the paraoxonase 1 (PON1) and paraoxonase 2 (PON2) enzymes in tissues of the body might protect from overwhelming infection by gram negative organisms such as pseudomonas.