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OHSU, UO to study SARS-CoV-2 in the hospital setting

The effort could inform environmental monitoring in hospitals and clinics nationwide
an illustration of coronavirus floating across a red background
A joint research project between UO and OHSU aims to learn how the new coronavirus is dispersed in the air and onto surfaces in the hospital setting. (Getty Images)

The University of Oregon and Oregon Health & Science University have launched a study to learn how the new coronavirus is dispersed in the air and onto surfaces in the hospital setting, information vital to all hospitals, health care workers and the public.

The research is taking place at OHSU in Portland and the UO’s Biology and the Built Environment Center in the College of Design, led by Robert Martindale, M.D. Ph.D., professor of surgery in the OHSU School of Medicine, and architecture professor Kevin Van Den Wymelenberg, Ph.D., co-director of the center and director of the Institute for Health in the Built Environment.

Renee Edwards, M.D., M.B.A
Renee Edwards, M.D., M.B.A.

“As Oregon’s academic health center, OHSU is built and maintained to meet rigorous state and federal regulatory standards and routinely meets or exceeds national benchmarks for quality and safety,” said Renee Edwards, M.D., M.B.A., senior vice president and chief medical officer for OHSU Health. “While our Infection Prevention and Control Program is well-equipped to manage any and all respiratory illness or infectious diseases, including COVID-19, there is much we don’t know about the virus. That’s why we are taking a proactive, evidence-based approach to better understand how the virus behaves in a hospital setting.”

Knowledge gained from this research could make a significant contribution. The research project creates the possibility that hospital rooms could be designed in ways that could help minimize the spread of infections.

The team of researchers began working together in 2018 on a project that used predictive modeling to study the diahrrea-causing bacterium Clostridioides difficile in inpatient units. The OHSU-UO Collaborative Seed Grant program funded that project, along with nine others, in its inaugarual year.

Peter Barr-Gillespie, Ph.D.
Peter Barr-Gillespie, Ph.D.

The program was created to build research relationships that would build on the respective strengths of UO and OHSU researchers and create teams that would continue to collaborate into the future.

“We believe that these teams will remain engaged in high-impact research well beyond the life of the funding,” said Peter Barr-Gillespie, Ph.D., OHSU executive vice president and chief research officer.

The established partnership eased the pivot to studying COVID-19.

Find out more about the project

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