Page 1 of 1

AHRQ awarded $17 million to fund projects to fight health care-associated infections

Research Activities, December 2009, No. 352

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has awarded the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) $17 million to fund projects to fight costly and dangerous health care-associated infections (HAIs). These infections are one of the most common complications of hospital care. Nearly 2 million patients develop HAIs, which contribute to 99,000 deaths each year and $28 billion to $33 billion in health care costs. HAIs are caused by different types of bacteria that infect patients being treated in a hospital or health care setting for other conditions. The most common HAI-causing bacteria is methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA. The number of MRSA-associated hospital stays has more than tripled since 2000, reaching 368,600 in 2005, according to AHRQ's Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project.

Of the $17 million, $8 million will fund a national expansion of the Keystone Project, which within 18 months successfully reduced the rate of central-line blood stream infections in more than 100 Michigan intensive care units (ICUs) and saved 1,500 lives and $200 million. The project was originally started by the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and the Michigan Health & Hospital Association to implement a comprehensive unit-based safety program. The program involves using a checklist of evidence-based safety practices; staff training and other tools for preventing infections that can be implemented in hospital units; standard and consistent measurement of infection rates; and tools to improve teamwork among doctors, nurses, and hospital leaders.

Last year, AHRQ funded an expansion of this project to 10 States. With additional funding from AHRQ and a private foundation, the Keystone Project is now operating in all 50 States, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia. The new HHS funding will expand the effort to more hospitals, extend it to other settings in addition to ICUs, and broaden the focus to address other types of infections. In collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), AHRQ also identified several high-priority areas to apply the remaining $9 million toward reducing MRSA and other types of HAIs. These projects will range from reducing Clostridium difficile infections through a regional hospital collaborative to evaluating new ways to eliminate MRSA in ICUs.

A complete list of institutions funded by the $17 million awarded to AHRQ is available at

Return to Contents
Proceed to Next Article

Page last reviewed December 2009
Internet Citation: AHRQ awarded $17 million to fund projects to fight health care-associated infections: Research Activities, December 2009, No. 352. December 2009. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.