Tag Archives: infection control

Infection, prevention & control and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People.

The Snake, the Staff and the Rainbow Serpent : A Call to ‘Fill the Gap’ in research relating to infection, prevention and control and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People.

(Written by Victoria Gregory)1

 

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are the oldest surviving culture in the world, yet they will live approximately 10 years less than other Australians. Some contributing factors include indigenous people are at higher risk for emerging infectious diseases compared to other populations (Butler et al 2001). Examples of infectious diseases include respiratory tract infections, infections with antimicrobial-resistant organisms, and bacteremia and meningitis caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae, zoonotic diseases, viral hepatitis, Helicobacter pylori and respiratory syncytial virus infections, diseases caused by Group A and B streptococcus, tuberculosis, Haemophilus influenzae type b, and Neisseria meningitides (Butler et al 2001).

Here are some specific examples:

  • According to data from ‘healthinfonet’ between 2009 and 2013 tuberculosis notifications were 11 times higher for Indigenous people than for Australian born non-Indigenous people.
  • In 2014-15, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were three times more likely that non-indigenous people to be admitted to hospital for influenza and pneumonia.
  • In 2014, there were 170 cases of invasive meningococcal disease notified in Australia with 21 cases (12%) identified as Aboriginal; an increase from 2013 where 13 cases (8.7%) were identified as Aboriginal and one identified as Torres Strait Islander (0.7%).
  • In 2015, hepatitis C notifications were five times higher for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people than for non-Indigenous people and the rate of HIV diagnosis was just over twice as high for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people than non-Indigenous people. Notification rates for gonorrhoea were also 10 times higher for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people than for non-Indigenous people. For syphilis, notification rates were six times higher for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people than for non-Indigenous people. For chlamydia, notification rates were three times higher for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people than for non-Indigenous people.
  • Skin infections are also common in Aboriginal and Torres strait Islander Communities (The Lowitja Institute).

These data paint a real and bleak picture, but there are many success stories, including:

  • An initiative by Australians for Native Title and Reconciliation group in 2007 which reported on successful Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health projects, such as:
    • ‘Tune into your health: Nunkawarrin Yunti Aboriginal Health Service’ where young people developed lyrics and songs about health issues affecting their community, a song called ‘It’s in your blood’ increased knowledge and awareness of Hepatitis C.
    • ‘Keeping safe with a snake: Marie Stropes International Australia’ an initiative raising awareness of sexual health.
    • ‘Mooditj: Sexual health and positive life skills’ an initiative by the Family Planning Association of Western Australia.
    • Healthworkforce Project and the Shalom Gamarada Ngiyani Yana Residential Scholarship program which has increased the numbers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students studying medicine and health at UNSW.
  • The implementation of the nationally funded Hib disease vaccination in 1993 which resulted in decrease of notifications of invasive Hib disease by more than 95%.
  • The painting above, ‘Healthcare in the Western Desert’ was created as part of an innovative project building mutual trust and respect involving Aboriginal artists from the Wankatjunka, Kakutja and Walpirri language groups and second year medical students from the University of Notre Dame during the students’ Remote Area Health Placement in the Kimberly. It highlights the 3 ‘snake and staff’ images representing the medical profession as well as symbols depicting women and children from the local communities and coloured squares representing the medical clinics and a number of circular jila (waterholes). The act of painting together transcended cultural differences and led to an evolution of knowledge and understanding for all participants.

Indigenous communities are at high risk for many infectious diseases, but there is limited research specifically relating to Indigenous health in relation to infection, prevention and control in Australia. Culturally appropriate research and ‘bottom-up’ prevention and control strategies, as well as long term commitment to their implementation is urgently required. It is our responsibility to mainstream Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander equality in all the valuable work that we do in the infection, prevention and control sphere. This blog is a reminder of the alarming statistics around infections and a call to work on closing the gap in health outcomes in Australia.

This blog was written by Victoria Gregory.

References

  1. Australians for Native Title and Reconciliation. antar.org.au
  2. Closing the Gap Prime Minister’s Report 2017. Closing the gap.pmc.gov.au
  3. Australian Indigenous HealthInfonet.http://healthinfonet.ecu.edu.au/ Retrieved 29.11.17
  4.  Butler, J. C., Crengle, S., Cheek, J. E., Leach, A. J., Lennon, D., O’Brien, K. L., & Santosham, M. (2001). Emerging infectious diseases among indigenous peoples. Emerging infectious diseases, 7(3 Suppl), 554.
  5. The Lowitja Institute. http://www.crcah.org.au/search/site/infection
  6. The University of Notre Dame, Australia. http://www.nd.edu.au/news/media-releases/2017/077

 

 

 

The Cerberus of science – dealing with ethics committees

We asked a colleage, Hannah Rosebrock, to write a blog for us, thank you Hannah.

In Greek mythology, Cerberus guards the gate of the underworld to prevent the dead from leaving. In social and clinical science, this role is fulfilled by ethics committees who stand as guardian between researchers and Cerberusparticipants and prevent the latter to be exploited by the former for the sake of science. The role of the Cerberus is a necessary one – although not very flattering, Cerberus is depicted as a three-headed beast. In the context of ethics committees, its three heads are called bureaucracy, officialdom and inefficiency.

According to the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) there are more than 200 HRECs operating in organisations and institutions throughout Australia (find a list of human Research Ethics Committees registered with NHMRC here). Although all HRECs base their decisions on the same principles deprived from the same National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research, every HREC has its own application procedures, forms and processes. Further, gaining approval from one ethics committee is no vouch for approval from another ethics committee.

This lack of standardisation specifically affects multi-site projects which led to the founding of the National Mutual Acceptance Scheme (NMA) in 2013. Under the NMA scheme, multi-site research projects do not have to gain ethics approval from every site the project is conducted at but only once, from a NMA certified HREC. As of August 2017 the scope of the NMA scheme covers all human research conducted at a public health organisation in Queensland, New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory, Victoria, South Australia, and – the latest addition to the scheme – Western Australia. Note: Northern Territory, Tasmania, and private health organisations are not included in the NMA scheme. Still, you might be tempted to think, that the NMA scheme has de-bureaucratised the ethics application process, and to some extent, this is true. There is certainly less duplication (if you don’t count private health organisations, Northern Territory and Tasmania). However, researchers are still fighting with a lack of standardisation, as every state has multiple NMA certified HRECs[1] and application procedures vary between and within states. This multitude in ethics committees, applications processes and forms, seems unnecessarily confusing, given that they are all assessed and certified by the same body (the NHMRC) for their compliance with the same criteria based on the same National Statement of Responsible Conduct in Human Research.

Independent of the HREC approval, researchers have to seek approval from the relevant Research Governance office (RGO) for each site the project is conducted at. There is no such thing as a mutual acceptance scheme for research governance approval, every site has its own assessing criteria for determining the site’s suitability for conducting a given research project. This adds to the generally labour-some and tedious process of gaining ethics approval.  In terms, this uses resources, and most commonly tax payer funded resources. In one Australian study, the cost of obtaining ethics and relevant approvals was $348,000 or 38% of study budget.

Applications for HREC approval are often no less than 63 pages; applications for Research Governance approval encompass about 23 pages – exclusive the extensive supporting documentation required, which can be up to another 150+ pages. Applications to both, HREC and RGO’s vary, with some still requiring submission in hardcopy by snail-mail, (additionally to email, USB and online forms) and will only be assessed, once received in hardcopy. This method is unnecessarily prone to error. To simplify, you must take steps away, rather than adding additional steps. The entire process is so focussed on detail that researchers, as well as assessing HREC and RGO officials can’t see the wood for the trees anymore. So much information is requested that even low-risk research projects that involve none to minimal involvement with participants, and thus hardly justify the use of the term ‘participants’, seem to turn into a second Stanford prison experiment throughout the process.

 

[1] Queensland has 7 NMA certified HRECs, New South Wales has 11, Victoria has 7, South Australia has 5 and Western Australia has 3 (Australian Capital Territory has 1). Find a full list here.

#A Trawl for Trends

In the lead up to the ACIPC conference in Canberra next week, I thought it might be timely to write something about the use of Twitter at infection control conferences. Thanks to Gabby Milgate for assisting with this blog.

Some of you might know that last year, a group of us reviewed tweets from four infection control/ID conferences – UK Infection Prevention Society, ID Week2016, The Federation of Infectious Society/Hospital Infection Society and the Australasian College for Infection Prevention and Control. Read the article here . 

Twitter as a medium for infection control content has grown from 181 Tweets at IPS2011 to 11,457 tweets at IPS2016. This rapid growth seems to suggest the twitter epidemic is contagious! The analysis of tweets from these four conferences identified trends in conference-related twitter activity.

Here are some evidence-based trends to help your infection prevention tweeimagests fly!

  1. Tweets with web-links are more likely to be retweeted, all things considered
  2. Picture are out – these are less likely to be re-tweeted, all things considered
  3. Tweeting on topics such as ‘Cleaning’, “Media@, ‘Clostridium Difficile’, ‘Antiseptic’, ‘Infection prevention and control’ and ‘Hand hygiene’ are more often retweeted.

I’ll be talking more about this at the ACIPC conference next week – the abstract is here

Not only has Twitter been used to broaden conference exposure and encourage attendees to further engage with content but the Royal Society of Chemistry hosted an entire conference on Twitter. The conference had an audience of 380,000 online users, without a ‘face-to-face’ component.  The conference was both cost-effective and far-reaching.  Additionally, its virtual delivery eliminated risks of airborne or droplet transmission of infections!

Twitter may serve as a useful tool for infection control professionals and enthusiasts to broaden their networks, providing a platform for infection related discourse and a mode of communication for health promotion and education to the general public of social media users.

Perhaps a future trending topic: ‘Twitterer’s twiddling their thumbs on their devices practice excellent hand hygiene’.

TwitterFor those attending the Australasian College for Infection Prevention and Control or want to follow what is happening from a distance, follow #ACIPC17 – and of course the authors of this blog!

 

Network Analysis: A line (edge) between usernames, indicates a relationship – a tweet sent by one person that included the username the other.  (IPS = Infection Prevention Society)

Variation in hospital cleaning

Hospital cleanliness has a number of implications for patients and staff in addition to simply preventing the spread of infection. Aside from infection, for patients and their families, a tidy and sanitary ward greatly improves comfort and provides assurance of the quality of their treatment. For staff, a hygienic environment means a more appealing workplace.

Throw in numerous studies demostrating and articulating links between the environment and infection [1-5], it’s easy to see why effective cleaning is of utmost importance when it comes to maintaining safe and quality hospital care. In light of this, it is difficult to believe that we have no uniformity across Australian hospitals when it comes to cleaning practices, staff training, products used or even standards by which to evaluate whether a hospital environment is clean and safe.

Variation in hospital cleaning practice and process in Australian hospitals: a structured mapping exercise [6] is the first paper to identify the variations in cleaning practices present among Australian hospitals. It describes in detail a range of discrepancies found in cleaning processes used across the country, in a study of 11 private and public Capturehospitals.

This paper is the latest from The ‘Researching Effective Approaches to Cleaning in Hospitals’ (REACH). The REACH study uses a bundle of standardized interventions in an attempt to combat healthcare-associated infections, with a view of gathering evidence that could be used to inform better and more standardized cleaning methods in the future.

The variation in cleaning practice and processs highlighted in this paper, demonstrates  the need for nationally recognised standards in hospital cleaning and outlines the challenges associated with the current system – or lack thereof.

 

References

  1. Dancer SJ. The role of environmental cleaning in the control of hospital-acquired infection. J. Hosp. Infect. 2009;73:378-385
  2. Mitchell BG, Dancer SJ, Anderson M, Dehn E. Risk of organism acquisition from prior room occupants: a systematic review and meta-analysis. J. Hosp. Infect. 2015;91:211-217.
  3. Hayden, M. K., Bonten, M. J., Blom, D. W., Lyle, E. A., van de Vijver, D. A., & Weinstein, R. A. (2006). Reduction in acquisition of vancomycin-resistant enterococcus after enforcement of routine environmental cleaning measures. Clinical Infectious Diseases, 42(11), 1552-1560.
  4. Donskey CJ. Does improving surface cleaning and disinfection reduce
    health care-associated infections? Am J Infect Control. 2013;41(5):S12–9.
    http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ajic.2012.12.010.
  5. Barker J, Vipond IB, Bloomfield SF. Effects of cleaning and
    disinfection in reducing the spread of Norovirus contamination via
    environmental surfaces. J Hosp Infect 2004; 58(1): 42–9. doi:10.1016/
    j.jhin.2004.04.021
  6. Mitchell, B. G., Farrington, A., Allen, M., Gardner, A., Hall, L., Barnett, A. G., . . . Graves, N. Variation in hospital cleaning practice and process in Australian hospitals: A structured mapping exercise. Infection, Disease & Health. doi:10.1016/j.idh.2017.08.001

 

 

 

The Pub Test

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For many Australians there is a long held tradition of going to the pub at the end of the day/week to discuss life’s big questions (a practice not native to Australia I’m sure). Sadly, the pubs I frequented in my youth are now apartments (because we need more of those!) and like the live music they used to support, they are gradually disappearing from our urban landscape.

Anyhow, arising from the communal attempt to discuss worldly issues, comes the term “the pub test”.  Briefly, the pub test seeks to evaluate the views of “ordinary Australians” on certain issues. In my home state of Victoria, the recent application of the pub test has resulted in the downfall of several senior politicians who were accused of rorting their privileges by making extravagant travel claims. Though arguably they may not have breached any rules (stretching them perhaps). The media applied the pub test and the punters down at the pub believed the politician’s behaviour was unacceptable. In an impressive display of the power of the popular vote, these politicians have been stood down.

Now I’m not convinced of the rigour of the pub test, not the least I suspect the results may be influenced by the pubs location and the time of night you visited, but nevertheless it got me thinking, what if we applied the pub test to the state of infection prevention in Australia?

I wonder if these statements, reflecting some of our local infection prevention issues, would pass the pub test?

  • Some people get an infection as a result of their healthcare, but we’re not really sure how many Australians this happens to.
  • If you are infected with a ‘superbug’ in some hospitals, sometimes the staff that look after you will be wearing gowns, gloves and masks, and sometimes they wont.
  • If you are placed in a room that was previously occupied by a patient with a ‘superbug’ you are probably at a higher risk of being infected with that ‘superbug’ than if you are placed in another room.
  • Not all hospitals use the same criteria to identify an infection.
  • If you ask a hospital CEO which of the surgeons in their hospital has the highest infection rate, they probably wont tell you.

(I can think of many other examples to put to the pub test, and I invite you to share yours).

What would be the reaction of the ‘ordinary Australian’ to these statements? Would the power of the popular vote on these issues catch the eye of those in authority?

 

Declarations: I occasionally go to a pub – Phil

 

 

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step – Laozi

(This blog was inspired by the session at ECCMID 2016 also mentioned by Brett)

There are some things we Antipodeans are good at and are arguably international leaders, and some things we’re not (sporting references will be overlooked for now).

Take for example Australia’s innovative and novel National Hand Hygiene Initiative (NHHI). Obviously declaring conflict here, but a national program rolled out across Australia that recently had over 900 healthcare facilities submit compliance data is an example of what enthusiasm, strong leadership, central coordination and jurisdictional cooperation combined with adequate resources can achieve.

Clearly the start up of the NHHI was resource intensive, and this has been well documented,  and it is difficult to measure the precise effect the NHHI has had on HAIs, particularly when HAI surveillance in Australia is so disparate. Undeniably it has bought the importance of hand hygiene to the forefront of clinicians, executive and politicians. And when these groups listen to infection prevention, it’s a good thing.

Australia also leads the way in antimicrobial stewardship. At the recent ECCMID conference in Amsterdam, AMS was a common theme in many sessions, and several Australians presented new knowledge identified through novel audit tools. Feedback from across the globe has reflected much interest at the appropriateness data being generated.

And then there are things that make us watch in awe, like surveillance. My poster on national surveillance in Australia at ECCMID received a moderate amount of visitors (and not one mistook me for being Austrian). The top two comments were “Nice layout, good colors” and “Really, you don’t have a national surveillance program?”

As Brett has mentioned in his post, the final session at ECCMID was about surveillance and public reporting, and we had Eli Perencevich present perspectives from the US and Europe. England now has a public reporting tool where consumers can drill down to Trust by infection and time period for an assortment of HAIs, presumably this will expand to all mandatory surveillance activities in the future. A presentation by Maaike van Mourik from the Netherlands about semi and fully automated surveillance systems and their utility for the numerous stakeholders was inspiring. Maaike demonstrated how a semi automated surveillance system resulted in an impressive surveillance workload reduction for ICPs and 100% case sensitivity

Will we live to see the day in Australia where electronically sourced, risk adjusted HAI data is collected by an automated surveillance program which is then analysed and interpreted by infection prevention experts, and then submitted to a central agency where data is collated, benchmarks established, and published on an interactive webpage providing complete transparency for consumers?

Unfortunately many other countries are closer to that day than Australia, but we must move in this direction… A journey of a thousand miles…

Why have a national HAI surveillance program, (I hear you ask), when the surveillance you do is perfectly adequate for your needs? Answers to that question will be provided in later blogs!

PLR

ECCMID: surveillance my favourite

Welcome to Infectiondigest. On this blog you will hear thoughts, reflections and maybe the occasional rambling on issues that relate to infection prevention and control.We hope to stimulate some debate and discussion on a range of topics, in the backdrop of our geographical region.

I recently went to ECCMID in Amsterdam. With over 11,000 attendees it is certainly a conference that attracts delegates. There were a few reasons why I wanted to go: to catch up with colleagues, build networks and update knowledge both in certain areas of ID and also infection prevention and control. It ticked the box on all counts, but the IP&C content was the most disappointing. There was not much content on this topic, relative to others in my view. It is very interesting hearing about latest treatments and drugs but in the end, we are and will continue to be become more reliant on ‘basic’ infection control practices. What we really need is investment in high quality infection control studies.

For me, on IP&C, one of the highlights was a talk on the last day, before I had to quickly leave to catch my plane. Automated monitoring of nosocomial infections . This talk made me think about how far behind we are in Australia when it comes to surveillance. There we were in Amsterdam, contemplating the pros and cons of automated vs semi automated surveillance, whereas in Australia, we barely have a national HAI surveillance program.  Perhaps we will leapfrog everyone else in this space, but I doubt it.

 

Brett Mitchell @infectiondigest