A study published today by PLOS Medicine, estimates the combined burden of six healthcare-associated infections as being higher than that of diseases such as influenza, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis together. More than 2.5 million cases of healthcare-associated infections occurring each year in the EU/EEA are estimated to result in a burden of approximately 2.5 million disability-adjusted life years (DALYs), a commonly used metric for measuring the impact of diseases on the health of a population.
The authors said: "even though many of the reported healthcare-associated infections can be prevented by sustained and multifaceted actions, they still represent a significant burden among communicable diseases in Europe. Lowering the burden of healthcare-associated infections in the EU/EEA should be an achievable goal". They concluded: "the present study highlights the need for intensified efforts to prevent and control these infections, ultimately making European hospitals safer places."
The study builds on the methodology of the Burden of Communicable Diseases in Europe (BCoDE) project and the related toolkit, and on data from the ECDC point prevalence survey of healthcare-associated infections and antimicrobial use in European acute care hospitals, for six common types of healthcare-associated infections: pneumonia, urinary tract infections, surgical site infections, Clostridium difficile infections, neonatal sepsis, and primary bloodstream infections.
While there were significant challenges in estimating the number of DALYs for healthcare-associated infections (e.g. adjusting for the role of comorbidities, the availability of data on the infectious events), the authors present a solid first attempt at estimating the burden of these infections.
The study was developed by experts at the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, the Robert Koch Institute (Germany), and the Centre for Infectious Disease Control, National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (The Netherlands).