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Argonne, UChicago scientists chase deadly MRSA bacteria with new models

Ten years ago, Chicago hospitals were at ground zero when the deadly MRSA bacterium, till then confined to hospitals, learned some new tricks and spilled out into the community. This year, researchers from DOE's Argonne National Laboratory and the University of Chicago are teaming up to develop a unique new computer model to understand how the bacteria spread across Chicago—and how it might be prevented from spreading further.

Argonne senior systems scientist Charles Macal and University of Chicago associate professor Diane Lauderdale received a grant from the Models of Infectious Disease Agent Study (MIDAS), funded by the National Institutes of Health, to begin a five-year study to mathematically model MRSA outbreaks.

Sometimes called “the flesh-eating bacterium,” MRSA, or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, is a new antibiotic-resistant strain of bacteria that kills more people annually in the U.S. than AIDS. MRSA is spread by close contact and by touching contaminated surfaces, and can often live harmlessly on the skin for years before infecting an open wound.

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