In 2005 NorthShore became the first hospital system in the nation to universally screen patients for MRSA, a staph bacteria resistant to many antibiotics. Once only a hospital-acquired infection but now commonly found in community settings, MRSA poses a threat to patients by putting them at higher risk for bloodstream infections, pneumonia and surgical site infections. Testing all patients before admission proved to be effective, resulting in a 70 percent lower infection rate. Today, NorthShore continues to protect hospital patients from infection through MRSA screening.

Initially a quality improvement initiative of the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine in collaboration with others at NorthShore, this ambitious undertaking quickly translated to effective patient care for our community. Research conducted as part of this program has helped to minimize the magnitude of MRSA infection and serves as a model for other hospital systems across the country. 

Developing early diagnostics for MRSA and other nosocomial infections such as vancomycin resistant enterococci (VRE) and Clostridium difficile (C-diff) remains a top priority of the department’s infectious disease specialists. Lance R. Peterson, MD, leads our efforts as Director of Microbiology and Infectious Disease Research.

Additional areas of infectious disease research in the department include:

  • Using antimicrobial agents to curb the development of microbial resistance. Under the umbrella of “Antibiotic Stewardship,” these initiatives provide personalized treatment for each patient admitted to the hospital with an infection
  • Designing new strategies such as real-time PCR and other diagnostic tests for rapidly detecting microbial pathogens and the drug-resistance genes they carry
  • Evaluating and validating new molecular diagnostic tests for the Food and Drug Administration that are developed by manufacturers for clinical diagnostic testing
  • Developing novel diagnostic assays that detect actual human response signals during infection for the next generation of laboratory tests