Research Recap: August 2 - August 13

Research Recap: August 2 - August 13

August 25, 2021

A new biweekly overview of recent studies published by Institute investigators and their collaborators spans a wide variety of topics, including:

The Sentinel System; links between increased COVID-19 burden and healthcare associated infections in hospitals; the epigenetics behind adverse outcomes in offspring

For all faculty publications, see our Publications page. For up-to-date media coverage and research findings, visit In the Media, and follow us on Twitter. To search for a subject matter expert, visit our Investigator Directory.

Data networkTesting Sentinel System capabilities using influenza as an exemplar

Led by Noelle Cocoros with Darren Toh, a team of Sentinel System investigators examined the Sentinel System’s capacity to identify key aspects of data relevant to the prevention and treatment of respiratory viruses. They used seasonal influenza as an exemplar for this retrospective cohort study, looking at three influenza seasons’ worth of data (June 2014 – July 2017). The team identified a large number of individuals diagnosed with influenza and observed testing, treatment, and complications of relevance to studies of respiratory virus prophylaxis and treatment. Overall, the team observed that approximately half of people diagnosed with influenza in the outpatient setting were dispensed an outpatient antiviral medication. Delays in dispensed treatment were associated with higher prevalence of comorbidities and higher rates of complications. Results were published in Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology.

Institute Investigator(s): Noelle Cocoros, Darren Toh

COVID-19’s effect on routine hospital associated infection (HAI) prevention

A team including investigators Meghan Baker and Richard Platt evaluated the association between COVID-19 surges and healthcare associated infections (HAI) cluster rates. The study, which appears in Clinical Infectious Diseases, looked at 148 HCA Healthcare-affiliated hospitals from March 2020 through September 2020, and a subset of hospitals with microbiology and cluster data through the end of 2020. They found that, as the COVID-19 burden rose, so did CLABSI, CAUTI, and MRSA infections, as well as clusters of hospital-onset pathogens. Their findings emphasize the need to strike a balance between COVID-related demands and routine hospital infection prevention.

Institute Investigator(s): Meghan Baker, Richard Platt

The influence of maternal prenatal weight on offspring brain developmentPregnant woman with post-it notes on her stomach
A team of investigators led by Emily Oken sought to investigate whether maternal prenatal weight was associated with offspring brain development. Using follow-up data from the Promotion of Breastfeeding Intervention Trial (PROBIT), the team looked at the data of 11,276 children who were evaluated from birth (1996-1997) to adolescence (2017-2019) that had maternal BMI information available in prenatal medical records. Findings, published in JAMA Network Open, support results from animal experiments and human observational studies in settings with higher maternal BMI and obesity rates, suggesting that higher maternal prenatal BMI may be associated with poorer offspring brain development.

Institute Investigator(s): Emily Oken

Editorial: Deconstructing improvements and hospital variation in COVID-19 mortality rates during the early pandemic wave

A new editorial by Chanu Rhee, published in BMJ Quality & Safety, advocates for rigorously examining trends in COVID-19 outcomes and how possibly modifiable hospital factors to mortality to prepare for surges fueled by variants of the disease, as well as other potential future threats. He highlights this through a discussion of a study that appears in the same issue of the journal that quantifies variations in mortality among hospitals in England early on in the pandemic. The study suggests that strains on hospitals’ staff and other resources may have contributed to worse outcomes. Dr. Rhee stresses the importance of coordinated regional approaches to mitigate increased numbers of patients, and that though these approaches have improved greatly throughout the pandemic, there is always more room for improvement. He closes that we must take both the positive and negative lessons of the early response to COVID-19 to plan for future waves and pandemics.

Institute Investigator(s): Chanu Rhee

The epigenetics behind elevated BMI entering pregnancy and adverse outcomesDNA strand during, at delivery, and through offspring lifecourse

As obesity rates in women of reproductive age rise, so does the interest in examining the mechanisms that lead to and mediate adverse outcomes during pregnancy, at delivery, and throughout the lifecourse of the offspring. Using a large number of cord blood and placenta samples from study participants from the Genetics of Glucose regulation in Gestation and Growth (Gen3G) Study, a team led by research fellow Nidhi Ghildayal with Sharon Lutz and Marie-France Hivert analyzed DNA methylation to investigate whether it is part of fetal programming that leads to long-term risks in offspring. Results, published in Epigenetics, indicate that DNA methylation alterations in cord blood or placenta tissue can increase understanding of mechanisms of fetal programming of offspring phenotypes that may lead to potential adverse outcomes over the lifecourse.

Institute Investigator(s): Nidhi Ghildayal, Marie-France Hivert, Sharon Lutz

Examining COVID-19 reinfection among patients at 238 U.S. healthcare facilities

While several studies have consistently shown individuals who had COVID-19 and been reinfected with the virus are relatively rare, the U.S. lacks population surveillance data on the topic. A team including Michael Klompas sought to look at data from the first full year of the U.S. pandemic in retrospect to determine the incidence of suspected COVID-19 reinfection, as well as predictors of reinfection risk over time. Of 131,773 patients who tested positive, 2,536 patients received repeat testing over 90 days later. 253 from that group met criteria for suspected reinfection. In this study published in Clinical Infectious Diseaseswomen had a higher rate of reinfection, which the team believes warrants further investigation, and that overall, ongoing surveillance will be key to understanding the actual risk of reinfection.

Institute Investigator(s): Michael Klompas