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Research of Kyle Popovich, MD, MS, FIDSA

For over 10 years, Kyle Popovich, MD, MS, FIDSA, has examined the epidemiology of community-associated methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (CA-MRSA) in outpatient populations and hospital settings. She has also evaluated novel infection control strategies in the intensive care unit for infection prevention. She has presented several abstracts as oral presentations at the annual Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America, or SHEA, Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, and Infectious Diseases Society of America national scientific meetings and have been highly successful at converting these abstracts to publications in peer-review manuscripts. In 2009, Popovich was awarded the Society SHEA Trainee Award, an award recognizing the most promising young investigator for that year. In 2010, I received the SHEA Barry Farr Award, an award going to the first author on the best paper published that year in Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology. She has authored or co-authored eight solicited editorials on the subject of healthcare epidemiology, including a recent publication in the Journal of Infectious Diseases that discusses translational aspects of MRSA epidemiology, documenting her recognized expertise in the field.

Popovich has received continued institutional and federal support for my research. She completed a five-year Mentored Patient-Oriented Career Development Award (K23) from NIAID to examine CA-MRSA colonization among HIV-infected and HIV negative individuals. She also received a pilot grant through the Center for AIDS Research (CFAR) to evaluate the impact of HIV and incarceration on CA-MRSA infection. In 2016, she was named the site (Rush University Medical Center) Principal Investigator for a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Epicenter Supplement Grant to examine healthcare worker contamination with antibiotic resistant organisms using whole genome sequencing. I currently am the PI for an ongoing R01 (2015-2020) examining the genomic epidemiology and acquisition rate of MRSA at urban jails. 

Our work

Popovich's research to date has helped her understand the importance of studying multidrug resistant pathogens and infection prevention strategies to curb the spread of these organisms.  

Popovich's early work demonstrated how the epidemiology of community-associated methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (CA-MRSA) was changing. MRSA was once solely observed in hospital settings, however over the past fifteen years MRSA has emerged as a pathogen in the community, often causing colonization or infection in individuals without healthcare exposures. CA-MRSA spread rapidly throughout the US and by 2006, was the most common cause of skin infections presenting to emergency rooms. We developed a novel prediction rule based on antibiotic susceptibility profiles of MRSA strains that allowed one to differentiate “community” from “hospital” MRSA strains by using existing information in the medical record; this “phenotypic rule” enables clinicians in any hospital in the U.S. to improve their surveillance without the need for expensive molecular epidemiologic tools which may not be readily available at all hospitals. We then examined hospital-onset MRSA bloodstream infections from 2000-2006 at Stroger Hospital of Cook County and demonstrated that CA- MRSA had entered healthcare settings and were now a major cause of nosocomial infections. This was a landmark study in that it underscored the ability of this community strain of MRSA to spread and become an endemic strain not only in the community but now also in the hospital. This study had critical importance for infection control and prevention in hospitals and for informing future areas of research needed for CA-MRSA. I served as the primary investigator for these studies and was a co-author for the solicited editorial discussing this major shift in MRSA epidemiology.

During Popovich's NIAID K23 award, she led several pioneering investigations that documented the disproportionate impact CA-MRSA has had on the urban poor, particularly HIV-infected individuals. Several previous studies had described outbreaks of CA-MRSA in the US in distinct populations characterized by close person-to-person contact. I was the lead investigator on work that demonstrated that the rate of CA-MRSA infection in HIV-infected individuals is 6-fold higher than that in HIV-negative individuals. In addition, we found that HIV-infected patients have a higher prevalence of MRSA nasal, extra-nasal, and exclusive extra-nasal (i.e., nasal cultures negative for MRSA) colonization than HIV-negative individuals. We also determined that factors beyond immune suppression were responsible for the increased risk for MRSA in HIV-infected individuals. These factors include types of alternative housing (e.g., homeless shelters and substance abuse centers), incarceration exposure, and location of residence. We were one of the first research groups to improve our epidemiologic analysis of risk factors with geocoding. We demonstrated that areas in Chicago that have the highest levels of detainee release also had the highest incidence of MRSA infection, suggesting that high-risk networks of individuals in an area facilitate spread of MRSA to others. To extend this work, we have integrated whole genome sequencing and phylogenetic analysis into our evaluation of community populations at increased risk for MRSA colonization and infection. Our work has been instrumental in highlighting non-hospital settings that may need enhanced infection prevention efforts. I served as the primary investigator for each of these studies.

Popovich has also done work investigating infection control strategies for infection prevention in the hospital. I was the primary investigator on a project examining the “real-life” impact of chlorhexidine gluconate (CHG) in a medical intensive care unit. In this effectiveness study, we demonstrated that with routine daily CHG bathing, the rate of catheter-related bloodstream infections was zero and sustained for the last six months of the study. We examined CHG in surgical intensive care unit patients and highlighted the different types of bloodstream infections that may occur in critically ill surgical patients. In addition, we documented the relationship of CHG concentration on the skin of hospitalized patients with microbial burden on the skin with potential pathogens and examined this relationship over time. Several investigations have subsequently demonstrated the dramatic impact CHG can have on reducing healthcare-associated infection. Our work was highly important for helping to understand the pathophysiology and durability of CHG in a real world setting. 


Complete list of published work in MyBibliography

  • 21 peer-reviewed manuscripts (13 of which I am first author)
  • 4 solicited review articles
  • 6 invited book chapters
  • 8 solicited editorials



1R01AI114688 (Popovich, PI)                                           8/1/2015-1/31/2020     

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases                         
Title: Genomic Epidemiology of Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus in Jail
The objective of this application is to use whole genome sequencing and to further understand the epidemiology of MRSA in correctional facilities.
Role: Principal investigator

2017 Searle Foundation Grant (Popovich, PI)                      1 year
Scientific Leadership Council of Rush University Medical Center
Title: Genomic Epidemiology of MRSA Clinical Infections in Jail
Role: Principal investigator


RFA-CK-11-0010501SUPP15(Robert Weinstein, PI)                4/1/2015-2/29/2016   

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention                                       
Epi-Centers for the Prevention of Healthcare-Associated Infections, Antimicrobial Resistance and Adverse Events - A Multicenter Program Expansion (U54)
The objective of this application is to further examine healthcare worker contamination and improve situation awareness of pathogen risk at hospital and regional levels.
Role: Principal investigator at Rush University Medical Center

K23AI085029: Mentored Patient-Oriented Career Development Award (K23)                 7/2010-4/2015
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases             
Study Extra-nasal Colonization and Epidemiology of Community-associated Methicillin-    Resistant Staphylococcus aureus                                                    
Role: Principal investigator                                                  

Rush University Medical Center Executive Committee of Research Grant            7/2014-6/2015
Study the impact of HIV status and MRSA colonization on the nasal microbiome.
Role: Principal investigator                                                                                

Chicago Developmental Center for AIDS Research Pilot Award         8/1/2011-7/31/2013
The Impact of HIV status and Incarceration on Methicillin-Resistant S. aureus Infection            
Role: Principal investigator                                  

Rush University Medical Center/ Stroger Hospital of Cook County Collaborative Grant           6/2010-8/2011
Study the impact of Community-Associated Methicillin-Resistant S. aureus on HIV Patients   
Role: Co-principal investigator                                                                                                                                 

Contact us

Kyle Popovich, MD, MS, FIDSA
Phone: (312) 942-4451