Three million Europeans catch infections in hospital annually

LONDON Thu Jul 4, 2013 6:21am EDT

A doctor holds her stethoscope in an outpatients ward at a hospital in west London April 4, 2011. REUTERS/Toby Melville

A doctor holds her stethoscope in an outpatients ward at a hospital in west London April 4, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Toby Melville

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LONDON (Reuters) - On any given day, some 80,000 patients in Europe are fighting an infection they picked up in hospital, often while in intensive care, the EU's disease monitoring agency said in a survey published on Thursday.

Although some of these infections can be treated easily, others - like the superbug MRSA and other drug-resistant bugs - can be fatal or affect patients' health very seriously, taking several months of costly hospital care and medication to beat.

A survey by the European Centre for Diseases Prevention and Control (ECDC) found that on any given day, one in 18 patients in European hospitals has at least one hospital-acquired infection - amounting to around 3.2 million patients per year.

"Healthcare-associated infections pose a major public health problem and a threat to European patients," said Marc Sprenger, director of the Stockholm-based ECDC.

He said many of these infections could be prevented by well thought-out, sustained and multi-pronged prevention and control programs and he urged hospitals to step up the fight.

"Such programs, as well as prudent use of antibiotics, will help all actors involved to protect the patients of European hospitals," he said in a statement.

The ECDC warned last year that doctors are increasingly having to turn to last-ditch antibiotics due to growing drug-resistant superbug infections in Europe - many of them acquired in hospitals.

The latest survey, which covered 1,000 hospitals in 30 European countries, found the highest rates of hospital-acquired infections were among patients admitted to intensive care units, where 19.5 percent of patients had at least one bug they had picked up from the hospital.


The most common types of infection are respiratory tract infections such as pneumonia and infections of the bloodstream. These are often caused by Klebsiella pneumonia and E. coli bacteria, both of which have shown an ability to develop resistance to some of the most powerful antibiotics.

Among a total 15,000 reported healthcare-associated infections, surgical site infections and urinary tract infections are also common. Many of the infections are also found to be drug-resistant "superbugs", the survey showed.

Among all infections with Staphylococcus aureus bacteria in which full testing was carried out, more than 40 percent were reported as resistant to methicillin - in other words they were MRSA infections, the ECDC said.

Worldwide, MRSA infects an estimated 53 million people annually and costs more than $20 billion a year to treat. It kills around 20,000 people a year in the United States and a similar number in Europe.

EU health and consumer affairs commissioner Paola Testori Coggi said the findings of the European survey were "worrying" and urged health authorities to do more to protect patients in hospital and to step up the fight against antibiotic resistance.

Drug resistance is driven by the misuse and overuse of antibiotics, which encourages bacteria to develop new ways of overcoming them.

Experts say hospitals are often guilty of overusing antibiotics, giving them as "blanket" treatments before full testing has established which drugs are really needed.

(Editing by Gareth Jones)

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Comments (6)
jrj906202 wrote:
Assembly line healthcare is coming to America,as we move towards complete govt control.Democrats,govt worshippers,want a single payer system,where govt is in charge of all healthcare.You better start taking better care of your health,so you don’t need to access this system.

Jul 04, 2013 11:09am EDT  --  Report as abuse
oinkus wrote:
Lots of employees, lots of visitors bring infectious and contagious elements with them unknowingly (say during incubation periods for example) to the hospital. Patients do as well, incidental to their presenting illness. Difficult if not impossible to prevent. Everybody will keep trying though, but it will continue to happen to some extent. There is no magical solution to this problem.

Jul 04, 2013 11:53am EDT  --  Report as abuse
AphotoWizard wrote:
it is my opinion that unless and until we quit trying to kill every one of the billions of bacteria in the human body in the hame of being healthier we will all succumb to the bacterial. The bacteria just keep getting smarter and smarter. Eventually the medical profession will run out of “Magic Bullets” to kill the latest bacteria and the patients will die. The real solution is to quit looking at one medicine one drug and work on strengthening the bodies own defense system. Quit using most antibiotics except as a last resort even in farm animals. They kill the good bacteria along with the bad thus breaking down the body’s defense system. Antiseptics like iodine, silver, and alcohol are great in a confined location like a hospital, but they are deadly in the general use (This includes all the hand soaps). Next increase the intake of vitamins and minerals lost from our food like iodine and vitamin D. Go back to eating raw and fermented foods with their multi billion colony forming units of good bacteria. etc, etc. Once the good bacteria are in control of our guts and there is reduced pressure for the bacteria to evolve we just might find that the hospitals are less used and less dangerous than they are today.

Jul 04, 2013 12:57pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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