The University of Pennsylvania has received a $5.5 million grant to find new ways to prevent infections in hospitals.

Eleven epicenters in the U.S. funded by the Centers for Disease Control — all tasked with developing and testing new methods to prevent infections during health care — coordinate their efforts to make statistical study of the serious, but relatively rare problem possible.

The grant will fund various projects, said Ebbing Lautenbach, Penn's chief of infectious diseases. One will be the development of a test to more definitively tell doctors if a patient has an infection. When doctors aren’t sure, they’ll often prescribe antibiotics just in case, and having clearer answers could decrease the unnecessary use of antibiotics.

Lautenbach’s team will also study ways to identify susceptible patients, how to more effectively clean the hospital environment between patients, and how to better treat infected people.   

“Both identifying those patients who are at highest risk of developing those multi-drug-resistant infections can be challenging," Lautenbach said. "And how to prevent those infections and how to treat those infections can be even more challenging.”

According to the CDC, one in 25 patients picks up an infection, which can be fatal, during hospital stays.

Penn first received this CDC grant in 2011; the current round of funding will run until 2020.