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Rohde, students commended for clinical research

By Chelsea Stockton
University News Service
August 7, 2009

Rebecca Denham and Aaron Brannon

Rodney E. Rohde, associate professor in the Clinical Laboratory Science program at Texas State University-San Marcos, received a $5,000 renewable grant from the American Society of Clinical Laboratory Scientists for his research project Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA): Knowledge, Learning and Adaptation.

Rohde’s university MRSA pilot prevalence study will be published this month in the journal Clinical Laboratory Science and is co-written by Aaron Brannon and Rebecca Denham, both of whom were undergraduates at the time of the study’s conduction.

The study will be the first publication from the Clinical Laboratory Science program to be co-authored by undergraduate students.

The grant will go towards Rohde’s completion of his doctorate in the work of MRSA, a vicious, more resistant form of what is commonly known as a Staph infection. A growing problem in the arena of healthcare, MRSA can be linked anywhere from normal skin infections to fatality.

Rhode described MRSA as a bacteria associated with infections in humans that can act as a colonizer of various skin and mucosal surfaces. “Colonization” refers to the ability for a subject to carry the organism but not be infected; however, the potential for the bacteria to be transmitted from one location to another still exists.

“One to three percent of the general population is known to carry MRSA,” Rohde said. “What I mean by ‘carry’ is that you can walk around with it and not show signs of sickness, but the potential is there to infect yourself and others.”

Rohde said that MRSA is spread predominantly by person-to-person contact, although it may be transmitted by contaminated surfaces and objects.

“The big areas you see this explode in are in areas of close living or poor hygiene, like prisons, athletic facilities and university dorms,” Rohde said. “Places where certain items are inevitably shared.”

The chief goal of his research, Rohde explained, is to help build public health policy and models on how to deal with MRSA, its infections and other problems surrounding the condition.

“Many of the people in the general community aren’t aware of what to do, where to go or who to see,” Rohde said. “All of these are critical questions that they need answers to, whether about themselves or loved ones. This bug has adapted to people taking antibiotics for decades and has developed ways to resist. I want to help people be able to adapt to this disease.”

Rohde lent his knowledge on the disease and acted as mentor to undergraduates Brannon and Denham throughout their MRSA research project, helping them to develop a study based on carriage rates and characterization of students at a university, using Texas State as their site.

“MRSA is a hot topic nowadays,” Denham said, “and there weren’t any other studies about it in dorms. The information is important because college healthcare personnel should be aware of the changing epidemiology of MRSA, how it is transmitted, and preventative measures needed to avoid outbreaks on campus.”

“We really wanted to go out and strive to do more,” Brannon said. “And it’s exciting to think that as undergrads, we were able to be recognized for what we’ve been working on since 2007. “

“It feels good to be published,” Denham agreed. “We worked very hard to get this done.”