WHO report calls for prevention to fight health-care associated infection

In the battle against health-care associated infections, prevention and control are basic measures that can be taken worldwide, according to a report delivered to the World Health Organization (WHO) Executive Board meeting, in Geneva late last month.

Biotechnology solutions for infections that spread in health-care settings include addressing antimicrobial resistance and sepsis. A new report by the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) analyses the pipeline and challenges for developing new antibacterials. This new WHO report focuses more on fighting these conditions with available preventive measures.

“In acute care hospitals, out of every 100 patients, seven in high-income countries and 15 in low- and middle-income countries will acquire at least one health care-associated infection during their hospital stay,” the WHO report says.

New mothers and their children are especially vulnerable, with maternal sepsis causing 10.7% of maternal deaths and newborns in developing countries facing infection rates that are 3-to-20-times higher than those of high-income countries, says the report, adding: “Caesarean  section is the single most important risk factor for maternal infection after childbirth.”

COVID-19 brought in a new risk of health-care-associated infection, the WHO report notes.

Causes and solutions

Causes for health-care associated infections cited in the report include insufficient compliance with hand hygiene and practices for sterilization, contaminated medical equipment, inadequate cleaning in the hospital, a lack of trained infection prevention staff, poor training for hospital staff in fighting infection and overuse of beds and control professionals and limited opportunities for staff training or other problems with patient infrastructure.

The solutions named in the report include professionalization of the work of preventing infection and ensuring that hospitals and other medical facilities have such a professional assisting them.

As the report notes, while the COVID-19 pandemic added to the challenge of fighting healthcare infection, it also showed what is possible.

“The pandemic has also demonstrated the critical role of health system resiliency in providing essential health services and maintaining health systems functioning,” the report says. “The cornerstone of health system resiliency is keeping health workers, patients and visitors safe through a series of measures, including infection prevention and control best practices.

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