Computational methods reveal how hospital-acquired bacteria spread

Finnish scientists created new computational methods to make it possible to fight the spread of MRSA bacteria and the Enterococcus faecium bacterium more effectively.

Scientists at the Academy of Finland’s Centre of Excellence in Computational Inference Research have developed novel computational methods yielding knowledge of how hospital-acquired bacteria spread and develop. By applying the results, it is possible to better follow hospital-acquired infections in the future, or even fight them in real time.

The new methods are based on randomised algorithms and make it possible to analyse extensive genomic data significantly faster and more efficiently than before, and to develop models of the evolution of bacteria and viruses. With the current, most commonly used computational methods this work would take several months or even several years.

Fighting MRSA and the Enterococcus faecium bacterium

According to Professor Jukka Corander, whose group is part of the Centre of Excellence in Computational Inference Research, horizontal gene transfer is essential for the evolution of the bacteria that cause hospital-acquired infections. “It means that several different cell processes transfer genes between the lineages of the same and different species so that the bacterium becomes resistant to antibiotics and the virulence factor rapidly spreads in the population,” explains Corander.

Corander’s group’s methods have recently been applied by an international study which demonstrated that more than half of the genetic variation of the MRSA bacteria is caused by horizontal genomic transfer. Work by Corander’s group has also helped to understand and fight the spread of and the Enterococcus faecium bacterium, which has adapted to survive in hospital environments and has caused severe hospital epidemics worldwide.

Source: Academy of Finland