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Recognising the value of infection prevention and its role in addressing the antimicrobial resistance crisis
  1. Anthony Harris1,
  2. Lisa Pineles1,
  3. Eli Perencevich2,3
  1. 1Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland, USA
  2. 2Iowa City VA Health Care System, Iowa City, Iowa, USA
  3. 3Department of Internal Medicine, University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine, Iowa City, Iowa, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Anthony Harris, Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD 21201, USA; aharris{at}

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Healthcare-associated infections, particularly ones caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria, are associated with high morbidity, mortality and economic costs. In the USA, on average, 2 out of 10 patients admitted to a hospital contract a healthcare-associated infection and their mortality is estimated to exceed breast and prostate cancers, combined.1 Antibiotic-resistant pathogens are responsible for more than two million infections and 23 000 deaths each year in the USA, at a direct cost of $20 billion and additional productivity losses of $35 billion.2 In the European Union, an estimated 37 000 deaths are attributable to antibiotic-resistant infections, costing €1.5 billion annually in direct and indirect costs.3 Although these numbers are well known to hospital epidemiologists and infection preventionists, the magnitude of these numbers is often not appreciated by other clinicians and healthcare executives. Importantly, a large proportion of these infections are preventable. For example, a recent systematic review indicated that up to 70% of central line-associated bloodstream infections and catheter-associated urinary tract infections and up to 55% of surgical site infections and ventilator-associated pneumonias are preventable.4 Since the 1970s, infection prevention programmes have been recognised as an essential component for infection prevention in hospitals.5 These programmes generally consist of one or more hospital epidemiologists and infection prevention nurses and are tasked with internal and external tracking and reporting, developing and revising infection prevention policies, training staff, monitoring and surveillance, outbreak investigation, product management and evaluation, device processing, employee health, emergency preparedness and environmental cleaning methods in addition to regular meetings. …

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  • Contributors All authors contributed equally to writing this viewpoint.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.