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Hospital infection, superbug audit on its way

Australian researchers are gearing up to conduct a healthcare associated infection (HAI) point prevalence survey of Australian hospitals. They say it will be the first the country has seen in 30 years.

Project lead Dr Philip Russo, from Deakin University’s School of Nursing and Midwifery, said the survey will be critical to evaluating the level of infection risk across Australia's hospitals and preventing the spread of superbugs.

The survey, based on methods developed by the European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (ECDC) and made possible with a donation from a charitable organisation, will explore the number of patients in a sample of Australian hospitals who have an infection on one day. It also aims to describe the HAIs by site, type of patient, specialty, type of facility and geographical location.

Russo said patients in Australian hospitals are now sicker than ever, so are more vulnerable to infection. He added current European studies showed infection rates of between 3 and 8 per cent.

"There's currently a lack of data on what's happening nationally, and we need to understand the national burden of healthcare associated infections, then use this information to develop national infection prevention initiatives,” he said.

Co-researcher professor Brett Mitchell, from Avondale College of Higher Education, said these types of surveys are critical to setting national agendas and priorities.

He said Australia is one of the only OECD countries to not undertake them regularly, with the last carried out in 1984.

The project team will also gather data on the prevalence and type of bugs in hospitals, as well as how many patients have resistant strains. Russo said: "There's a lot of media attention on the use of antibiotics and the burden of multi-resistant organisms in Australia, but we don’t actually know how prevalent these superbugs are in our hospital system as a whole."

The National Healthcare Associated Infection Point Prevalence Survey will be held next year. The three-year project will begin with the recruitment of hospitals in September. Click here for more information.

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