Today, we published an article in Infection, Disease and Health estimating the number of HAIs occuring in Australia each year. 
To do this, we undertook a systematic review of the peer reviewed literature between 2010 and 2016. We identified 24 articles that reported the incidence of HAIs in Australian hospitals.
Overall, data from these multi centred studies suggested 83,000 HAIs per year in Australia. UTIs are were the most common, followed by C.difficile, SSIs, respiratory infections and Staphylococcus aureus bacteraemia.
Of course, these numbers are a very large underestimate given the lack of or incomplete data on common infections. It is also limited to data published in the peer reviewed literature.
Incidence data on infections such as pneumonia, gastroenterological and bloodstream infections (other than SAB) were not identified, thus potentially
missing up to 50% of infections. That being the case, the
incidence of HAIs in Australia may be closer to 165,000 per year.
Don’t believe me? Have a look at the results of point prevelance studies in Europe (right). Respiratory tract infections, bloodstream infections and others account for a large proportion of HAIs. Of course, Australia has not had a PPS undertaken in 30 years, so we don’t really know. However, for readers of this blog, you will know that will soon change.
A figure of 200,000 HAIs per year in Australia is commonly cited, however, this figure was derived from one study undertaken several years ago (a sign of what was available at the time). Our study, may, in part, demonstrate the increasing number of publications on HAIs in Australia. We are certainly not suggesting a reduction in HAIs and any such claim based on the findings of our study should be immediately dismissed.
There are some other equally important findings from our study:
- There needs to be a determination and action by state and national government bodies to achieve consensus on national HAI definitions
- We need national approaches to HAI surveillance and transparent regular reporting. Australia is so far behind other countries in this regard  
- In the absence of action by government, we call on those undertaking HAI surveillance (especially incidence) to report your data in the peer reviewed literature
We also found there is little information about healthcare associated respiratory infections, such as pneumonia. Maybe it is in the too hard basket (nice blog by Martin Keirnan which says it all). Well, I think we should do something about healthcare associated pneumonia – at the very least, understand the incidence and risk factors a little better. I am working on it…..
Footnote: Some of the research I have been involved with has been supported by donations from the public. For that, I am very grateful. Should you or your company wish to make a tax deductible donation, you can do so here.
- Mitchell, BG., Shaban, R., MacBeth, D., Wood, CJ., Russo, PL (2017). The burden of healthcare-associated infection in Australian hospitals: A systematic review of the literature. Infection Disease and Health. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.idh.2017.07.001
- Russo, P. L., Cheng, A. C., Richards, M., Graves, N., & Hall, L. (2015). Healthcare-associated infections in Australia: time for national surveillance. Australian Health Review, 39(1), 37-43.
- Russo PL, Cheng AC, Mitchell BM, & L, H. (2017). Healthcare associated infections in Australia – Tackling the “known unknowns”! Australian Health Review, (published online 7 March 2017), http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/AH16223