One-of-a-kind staph center approved by regents

by Chuck Brown, UNMC public relations | April 20, 2010

A UNMC center for Staphylococcal research -- the only one of its kind in the U.S. -- has been approved by the University of Nebraska Board of Regents.

The center will bring researchers and clinicians from various disciplines together to research and develop treatments for staph infections, which kill about 100,000 Americans each year -- more than HIV/AIDS.

"Staph is a big problem in our society and it's only growing," said Ken Bayles, Ph.D., professor of pathology and microbiology and director of the new center.

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Ken Bayles, Ph.D., will direct a new center at UNMC dedicated to research and treatment of staph infections. The center will the first in the nation focused solely on staph infections.
This is so, Dr. Bayles said, because of the emergence of drug-resistant staph bacteria, such as community-acquired methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (CA-MRSA), which has been found in schools and other common community settings.

"It used to be that it was primarily confined to surgical situations but now it's moved into the mainstream so to speak and affects perfectly healthy people," Dr. Bayles said. "These infections can lead to long hospital stays and deaths."

Staph is present on the skin or in the nose of healthy people and:

  • Causes 1.7 million infections annually in the United States;
  • Is the culprit of many minor and, thus, unreported skin infections; and
  • Has been a leading cause of hospital infections worldwide.

The emergence of CA-MRSA has left relatively few therapeutic options available.

The center will foster the interactions of basic science researchers such as Dr. Bayles with clinicians such as Mark Rupp, M.D., UNMC infectious diseases specialist, and Kevin Garvin, M.D., chairman of the department of orthopaedic surgery, to develop new therapies and treatments for staph.

"A lot of credit goes to UNMC's administration for its focus on these infections, which present major health challenges," Dr. Bayles said. "This center will allow us to become the national hub for basic and clinical staph research."

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