On March 14, the BCU published its first manuscript describing a new methodology to study how infectious pathogens travel through our clinical space. In partnership with the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab, we used a cough machine named “Barney” to recreate a human cough composed of fluorescent microbeads. We then used sensors placed throughout the unit to track where the simulated infectious droplets traveled through the BCU during patient care activities. We were able to confirm that the air handling system of the unit effectively contained the particles in the patient care room under static conditions. We also learned that particles could be transported from the patient room to the doffing room on personal protective equipment (PPE). These results will help to inform modifications to our protocols for airborne pathogens to maximize provider safety on the unit. This study also laid the groundwork for our Fisher Center Discovery Award. Through the execution of this grant, we will add DNA labelling to our fluorescent microbeads to enhance our ability to detect particles in the doffing room after providers remove their PPE. Our hope is that this methodology can be applied to other areas in the hospital where infection control is critical. We also hope to take Barney on a road trip to the other federally funded biocontainment units to help improve provider safety nationwide.

We are also excited to participate in an upcoming international conference on biocontainment cohosted by the Center for Health Security and the National Ebola Training and Education Center. This two-day event in April will bring together clinicians and administrators from over 30 biocontainment units worldwide to discuss issues related to highly infectious diseases and containment care. In collaboration with the Berman Institute of Bioethics, our BCU will host a dinner during the conference that explores the ethical, legal and social implications of genomic technologies applied to the containment care space.

If you are interested in learning more about the unit, or becoming part of our team, please contact Brian Garibaldi, at bgariba1@jhmi.edu.

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