Hospitals Could Google For Superbug Movement

Dangerous bacteria might be thwarted by PageRank

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Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) poses a deadly threat to people, especially hospital patients. One effort to track infections in a facility would utilize Google’s PageRank algorithm to do so.

Once upon a time, a couple of Stanford Ph.D candidates wrote a paper called "The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine." They discussed a concept called PageRank, which formed the core of Google and started a journey that led to a company with a market cap of $205 billion as of today.

Though there are a lot of secret factors involved in ranking search results today, anyone who wants to study PageRank can do so. It even has an entry on Wikipedia these days.

For researchers at Bradford University in the UK, PageRank may be the key to tracking the paths MRSA takes through a facility. New Scientist said a mathematician involved in the research thinks PageRank can rank the routes superbugs take from place to place:

"Our new model is based very much on the way Google has achieved number one status among search engines," (mathematician Simon Shepherd) explains. "When [Google’s] spiders crawl the web they build up a connectivity matrix of links between pages."

"Obviously nurses move among patients and that can spread infection, but they also touch light switches and lots of other surfaces too," he says., "If you observe a network of all those interactions you can build a matrix of which nodes in the network are in contact with which other nodes."

Once they have that matrix, steps can be taken to attack those nodes and reduce their superbug-carrying capabilities. Eventually, Shepherd wants to produce a software tool for other hospital managers to use to make similar assessments of their facilities and possible superbug transmission.


Hospitals Could Google For Superbug Movement
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