You shouldn't have to worry about getting sick at a hospital, but, of course, it happens. A lot.
Approximately one in 25 patients will contract a hospital-acquired infection (HAI), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In 2011, an estimated 722,000 HAIs were recorded in U.S. acute care hospitals, says the CDC, and close to 75,000 patients with HAIs died during their hospitalization. Researchers on both sides of the Atlantic are finding promising ways to combat this dismaying trend: bacteria-resistant bone implants are the focus at Fraunhofer IGB in Stuttgart, Germany, while graduate students at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (Worcester, MA) are finding inspiration in fish gills to develop an infection-fighting agent.
Infections caused by bone implants are especially problematic to treat, say researchers at Fraunhofer IGB. Antibiotics may be used, but they can be ineffective because very low concentrations of antibiotics ever reach their final destination as they travel to the target site via the bloodstream. A better idea, says Fraunhofer microbiologist Iris Trick, is to "avoid infection from the outset by providing implants with an antimicrobial shield."