NEWS BLOG from UPMC and the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences

Archive for March, 2017

UPMC Preparing for Latest Hospital ‘Superbug’ to Arrive in the US

UPMC Preparing for Latest Hospital ‘Superbug’ to Arrive in the US

Photo courtesy of Shawn Lockhart, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

After an exhaustive look back at 10 years of laboratory samples, UPMC infectious disease experts are confident that the hospital system hasn’t experienced the latest “superbug” to alarm federal public health officials.

But, that doesn’t mean UPMC is lowering its guard against Candida auris, a stubborn pathogen first reported in the U.S. in November.

“We’ve had several conferences with our infectious diseases physicians, infection control practitioners and clinical microbiology laboratory staff to prepare for C. auris,” said Dr. Minh-Hong Nguyen, director of UPMC’s Antimicrobial Management Program and Transplant Infectious Diseases. “We have mechanisms in place to diagnose infections immediately, and we have plans in place to prevent its spread in the hospital.

“We’ve also consulted with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and obtained reference samples.  Along with Dr. William Pasculle, director of UPMC’s clinical microbiology laboratory, we are fully confident that we have all the proper testing equipment to detect C. auris in real time.”

C. auris causes bloodstream and other infections that are resistant to most antifungal drugs (often referred to as “superbugs”). These infections have been associated with mortality rates of up to 50 percent among patients hospitalized at other centers. C. auris is typically recovered from patients who are already hospitalized for a different reason. It was first identified in 2009 in Japan, and has since been found in more than a dozen countries.

Nguyen and her colleague Dr. Cornelius J. Clancy, director of the Pitt Division of Infectious Diseases’ Mycology Program, work in a lab connected to UPMC Presbyterian and Montefiore hospitals. They note that, as an academic medical center, UPMC has sophisticated equipment outfitted with lasers that can deliver just the right amount of energy to permit diagnosis of C. auris without obliterating it. Pulsed lasers separate the pathogen so scientists can then determine its biomolecular signature and identify it. (more…)

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Tips to Understanding Nutrition Labels

We asked Laura Edwards, dietitian manager at UPMC McKeesport, for some tips on understanding nutrition labels.

What are some red flags on a nutrition label?

A. High levels of both saturated and trans-fats, cholesterol, and sodium are the biggest red flags on a nutrition label. Overconsumption of these nutrients is linked to increased risk of heart disease and high blood pressure. Currently, many Americans are above the recommended intake for these nutrients. Consume under 1,500 milligrams of sodium each day to prevent these risks.

What is something nutritious to look for on a label?

A. Nutrients in the blue section of the above graphic are important to consume daily. These include vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium and iron. Foods containing 20 percent or more of these nutrients are considered nutrient-rich, and any food with less than 5 percent of nutrients in the blue section is not beneficial to health.

What are your recommendations for consuming appropriate portion sizes?

A. Make sure the portion size on the label is the portion you are eating, and never assume a smaller food package means it is portioned to be a single size serving.  Serving size and number of servings per package are always listed on the food label.  It’s important to recognize all nutrition information, including calories, are for one serving of the food.  Therefore, if you eat a package of food that contains two servings, you must double all nutrient information. Sometimes it can be helpful to measure food onto a plate to ensure you are consuming an appropriate portion, especially if the food item comes in a larger box. Mindless snacking out of a bag or box often leads to overeating, so portioning your food helps prevent this. Also, it’s important to note that nutrition labels are geared for adults and they are not applicable to children.


Tips to Understanding Nutrition Labels

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UPMC Expands Services in Italy, Adds Wellness Center in Tuscany

UPMC Expands Services in Italy, Adds Wellness Center in TuscanyUPMC has expanded its services in Chianciano Terme, Italy, to include a new Medical Exercise and Wellness Center, aimed at preventing a variety of diseases linked to obesity and excess weight. The center offers customized, comprehensive wellness checkups, as well as patient education and tutoring, to residents of Tuscany and visitors to the region.

“Many major diseases worldwide are caused by a sedentary and unhealthy lifestyle, including poor diet, smoking and excessive consumption of alcohol,” said Dr. Bruno Gridelli, executive vice president of UPMC International. “With rising rates of cardiovascular disease, metabolic disorders, diabetes, chronic respiratory disorders and cancer, an increased emphasis on prevention is the only rational way for countries to face the economic and social impact of chronic diseases.”

The Medical Exercise and Wellness Center, part of the UPMC Institute for Health, helps those at risk for these diseases and those already diagnosed with them. Patients first receive a complete diagnostic checkup, typically followed by prescription of evidence-based physical exercise.

“If correctly adopted, exercise is strong medicine that can reduce and even eliminate the risks associated with chronic diseases and brain aging,” Gridelli said.

The new center includes fitness equipment from Technogym, which has equipped more than 65,000 wellness centers and 100,000 homes worldwide. An online technology platform connected with the machines allows patients and clinicians to manage and track their exercise routines. With a culture dedicated to wellness, Technogym is also partnering with the Medical Exercise and Wellness Center to conduct scientific research on how physical activity affects health.

UPMC opened the Institute for Health in Chianciano Terme in 2014, in partnership with the local health service, the Region of Tuscany and Terme di Chianciano, a company that operates and manages historical thermal premises in the region. Adding to UPMC’s successful transplant and cancer treatment services in Palermo and Rome, the institute attracts patients from throughout Italy and beyond with diagnostic screenings, imaging and procedures for a variety of diseases.

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Pitt-Developed Artificial Lung Shows Promise in Animal Model

Pitt-Developed Artificial Lung Shows Promise in Animal ModelUniversity of Pittsburgh researchers have developed and tested a wearable artificial lung that eventually could be used by patients with advanced lung disease. The new device, which showed positive results in a sheep model, promises to deliver greater mobility and increased odds for survival following severe lung damage.

Lung disease is a widespread problem in the United States. One type of lung disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), is the third leading cause of death in the U.S., according to the American Lung Association. Caused by smoking or exposure to other lung irritants, more than 11 million people likely have COPD. In some cases, COPD causes severe damage to the lungs, requiring a lung transplant.

Those suffering from lung failure have limited options. After being placed on the organ transplant list, it normally takes several months for a patient to receive a lung transplant. During this time, patients are usually confined to the hospital bed, sedated and hooked up to costly and cumbersome heart-lung machines that function to replace their damaged lungs.

“Despite recent advances such as portable heart-lung machines, a truly wearable artificial lung has yet to be developed for clinical use,” said lead investigator William Federspiel,  Whiteford Professor of Bioengineering in Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering and director of the Medical Devices Laboratory at the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine.

Together with a multidisciplinary group of colleagues at Pitt, Federspiel’s team has developed and tested the Paracorporeal Ambulatory Assist Lung (PAAL). The device is both compact and lightweight. It’s about the size of a tissue box and weighs approximately 4 pounds – about the weight of a laptop. In their preliminary study, published recently in Journal of Heart and Lung Transplantation, the research team characterized PAAL by implanting it in live sheep.

The study found that PAAL meets the basic requirements for adult respiratory support following lung failure. The primary function of the lungs is to supply oxygen to the blood. PAAL supplied oxygen to the blood at levels roughly equivalent to human oxygen levels needed during resting, but more than enough for mobile sheep. Sheep in the study were monitored for six hours to demonstrate that PAAL is functional in a live animal, and to monitor its effects on the circulatory system. (more…)

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UPMC Whitfield Cancer Centre Setting the Example for Standards of Cancer Care

UPMC Whitfield Cancer Centre Setting the Example for Standards of Cancer CareThe UPMC Whitfield Cancer Centre, an advanced radiation therapy center serving patients in southeast Ireland, is leveraging its successful track record of delivering high-quality cancer care to assist partner clinicians in Rome.

Having successfully completed three of its own Joint Commission International (JCI) accreditation surveys, the gold standard in terms of global health care, the cancer center welcomed colleagues from UPMC San Pietro FBF on March 20 to share knowledge and information related to quality and safety standards.

“While we are incredibly proud that we have been JCI-accredited since 2008, we are even more proud of how that translates into exceptional patient care and are very excited to be able to share this experience with our colleagues from Rome,” said Catriona McDonald, director of operations at UPMC Whitfield Cancer Centre.

The JCI accreditation process focuses on determining whether the right systems and processes are in place to support high-quality and safe patient care, and whether there is the culture and capacity to continuously improve care.

“Ensuring our patients receive the best possible care is our No. 1 priority, and demonstrating compliance with JCI standards serves as validation of this commitment,” said Elena Cino, director of operations at UPMC San Pietro FBF Advanced Radiotherapy Center, which is pursuing JCI accreditation. “We are fortunate to be part of UPMC’s global network where we can take advantage of the experience and expertise of our colleagues in Italy and worldwide and at a place like UPMC Whitfield.”

UPMC Whitfield Cancer Centre offers the most advanced radiation therapy to residents of the southeast region of Ireland. As part of UPMC CancerCenter, the facility leverages UPMC’s innovation and expertise from around the globe to deliver solutions and care to patients close to their homes.

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