Saturday 24 August 2019

One in 16 hospital patients ends up sicker after picking up bugs

(stock photo)
(stock photo)
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

One in 16 patients who are admitted to hospital end up sicker after picking up a serious or life-threatening infection on a ward, a new survey has revealed.

Patients who are in hospital to treat an illness are being made more unwell after acquiring infections like pneumonia. They are also falling victim to infections in hospital which affect the urinary tract or wounds after surgery.

The snapshot study over a single day was carried out across 28 European countries.

Some 678 active hospital-acquired infections were found in 10,333 patients in public and private hospitals in Ireland.

Of those, 41 had more than one active infection type, the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) said.

This represents an infection prevalence of 6.1pc - higher than the prevalence in 2012 of 5.2pc.

Hospital patients often have weakened immune systems and are less able to fight off disease.

Such patients are also often very sick and vulnerable to infection.

The medical procedures that they undergo may be more invasive and present a greater opportunity than in the past for infection to get a foothold.

The survey also looked at antibiotic prescribing in Irish hospitals.

In May 2017, 39.7pc of in-patients in Irish hospitals were prescribed an antibiotic. This compares with 34pc reported in May 2012.

The most common types of hospital-acquired infection found in the survey were pneumonia, surgical site infection (wound infection), urinary tract infection, which includes infection of the bladder or kidneys, along with bloodstream infection.

By age group, the highest prevalence of infection was recorded for older patients aged 50-64 and 65-79 years.

Prevalence was highest in adult intensive care units (ICU), followed by surgical wards.

Psychiatric wards and obstetrics and gynaecology ward had the lowest prevalence, as would be expected.

Patients with an infection were almost twice as likely to have undergone recent surgery than the overall group of 10,333 patients.

Invasive devices (catheters, drips and tubes) were more common in patients with an infection than patients who did not have a device inserted.

"While not all hospital-acquired infections can be prevented, there is definite scope to reduce their burden and impact on patients, along with optimising antibiotic prescribing in our hospitals," said Dr Karen Burns, consultant clinical microbiologist at the HPSC and national co-ordinator of the survey in Ireland.

"It is clear that in Ireland, as in other countries, there remains lot of work to do to improve prevention of hospital-acquired infection."

The need to improve antibiotic prescribing is greater than ever before, because there is growing evidence worldwide that bacteria are becoming more resistant to antibiotics at a time when few new types of antibiotics have been brought to the marketplace, she added.

This means many common antibiotics no longer work to treat common infections.

Irish Independent

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