Poulomi Nandy, Ph.D.
Preventing Hospital Infections
When Poulomi Nandy, Ph.D., was looking for a program which combined applied research with the opportunity to have an immediate, direct impact on public health, she turned to a fellowship through the Oak Ridge Institute of Science and Education (ORISE) at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Center for Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH).
Nandy received a doctoral degree in microbiology from West Bengal University of Technology, India, in 2012. For her doctoral thesis, she developed a rapid means of detecting urinary tract infections in women. She joined the ORISE fellowship program in July 2013.
A microbiologist and molecular biologist by training, Nandy researched sterility and infection control under the mentorship of the late Vicki Hitchins, Ph.D., and later under Anne Lucas, Ph.D. Her research mostly involved post-market studies about infection control of reusable medical devices, regulatory standards and public health awareness of hospital-acquired infections.
Healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) refer to infections patients contract during the course of hospital care. According to CDC, HAIs affect about 1 in 25 hospitalized patients, or 1 million patients across the U.S. health care system annually. These infections most often affect patients in critical care, and they are often connected to catheter, ventilator and other multiuse devices. Seeking to reduce HAIs, Nandy examined decontamination of single use and multiuse devices. She also investigated the potential for infections spreading through backflow in one-way valves within these devices.
One-way valves are intended to prevent the backward flow of fluid from a patient into devices. However, no standard methods exist to evaluate whether or not these one-way valves successfully prevent backflow. Nandy’s research demonstrated that depending on the type of valve, backflow may occur, which could increase the risk for infection. Her research group also developed test methods, adding input from the Office of Device Evaluation (ODE) reviewers, for evaluating the performance of these valves using biologic methods.
Nandy participated in several research projects, including projects focused on the cleaning and disinfection of reusable medical devices. She examined how the type of material, surface roughness, and different soils affect medical device cleanliness. She also studied the permeability of surgical gowns and drapes using Ebola virus surrogates. Her research will lead to a recommendation to modify and update the 1993 CDRH Guidance on Surgical Gowns and Drapes.
Nandy’s participation in the ORISE fellowship program helped her realize the importance of infection control in device manufacturing and packaging.
“Innumerable hospital-acquired infections can be prevented if proper infection control practices were incorporated,” said Nandy. The experience helped her prove herself as a researcher, and she benefited immensely. She was able to convert from an ORISE fellow to a staff fellow microbiologist within the same division. The training she received as an ORISE fellow, including various classes and workshops, helped her obtain her new position.
Her goal is to become a subject matter expert in microbiology, sterility and infection control, alongside promoting public health awareness of hospital-acquired infections.
The FDA CDRH fellowship program is funded by FDA and administered through the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE). ORISE is managed for DOE by Oak Ridge Associated Universities.