Hospital infections affect one in 20
Patients in Irish hospitals are less likely to contract infections than those in other EU member states, according to new research.
An investigation into hospital infections and antimicrobial usage here revealed about one in twenty patients from a sample of over 9,000 got an infection while in hospital, while 34 per cent are on antibiotics.
Fifty acute Irish hospitals - 42 public and eight private - participated in the voluntary survey which found that infections are most likely to affect patients in tertiary hospitals (7.5 per cent) and least likely to affect those in private hospitals (2.5 per cent).
According to a similar report published in the North, the average prevalence of hospital infections among EU member states is 6.2 per cent, while the average rate of antimicrobial usage is 36.3 per cent.
Consultant clinical microbiologist Dr Robert Cunney said although it was “positive to see that we appear to be well below the European average”, Irish hospitals still need to reduce the use of antibiotics.
He noted the strong correlation between hospital infections and the inappropriate use of antibiotics. “The general acceptance, not just in Ireland, is that a lot of antibiotic use… is unnecessary or inappropriate in one way or another,” he said. “If you reduce inappropriate antibiotic use then you reduce the level of [hospital-acquired infections] HAIs.”
Prevalence of antibiotic usage is highest in tertiary hospitals (37.4 per cent) and lowest in specialist hospitals (20.3 per cent)
The report registered worldwide concern “that bacteria are becoming more and more resistant to antibiotics, so they no longer work to treat common infections”.
It also found patients who acquired infections were more likely to have risk factors. “Well known risk factors for developing HAI can include: having had an operation, having a drip or a bladder catheter, being in an intensive care unit, being older or very young in age and receiving antibiotics.”
The top four reported HAI types were surgical site infection (18.2 per cent), pneumonia (17.2 per cent), urinary tract infection (15 per cent), and bloodstream infection (13 per cent).
Dr Cunney said the report didn’t raise any major concerns. “The level of infections that were caused by relatively resistant antibiotics was a little higher than what we would have seen with the national surveillance, but it wasn’t unexpected.”
He added that information and guidelines on how to address the issue of antibiotics in Irish hospitals will be published on Wednesday, EU antibiotics awareness day.