Hospital Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) and Antimicrobial Stewardship (AMS): Dual strategies to reduce antibiotic resistance (ABR) in hospitals


Gwendolyn L. Gilbert, Ian Kerridge (2020) Hospital Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) and Antimicrobial Stewardship (AMS): Dual Strategies to Reduce Antibiotic Resistance (ABR) in Hospitals. In: Jamrozik E., Selgelid M. (eds) Ethics and Drug Resistance: Collective Responsibility for Global Public Health. Public Health Ethics Analysis, vol 5. Springer, Cham. DOI:

In this chapter we review the development of hospital infection prevention and control (IPC) since the nineteenth century and its increasingly important role in reducing the spread of antibiotic resistance (ABR). Excessive rates of hospital-acquired infection (HAI) fell dramatically, towards the end of the nineteenth century, because of improved hygiene and surgical antisepsis, but treatment remained rudimentary until effective antibiotics became widely available in the mid-twentieth century. While antibiotics had profound clinical benefits, their widespread appropriate and inappropriate use in humans and animals inevitably led to the emergence of antibiotic resistance (ABR). Within 50 years, this could no longer be offset by a reliable supply of new drugs, which slowed to a trickle in the 1980s. In hospitals, particularly, high rates of (often unnecessary) antibiotic use and ABR are exacerbated by person-to-person transmission of multi-drug resistant organisms (MDRO), which have, so far, largely resisted the introduction of antimicrobial stewardship (AMS) programs and repeated campaigns to improve infection prevention and control (IPC). Despite clear evidence of efficacy in research settings, both AMS and IPC programs are often ineffective, in practice, because of, inter alia, insufficient resourcing, poor implementation, lack of ongoing evaluation and failure to consult frontline staff. In this chapter we review reasons for the relatively low priority given to preventive programs despite the ethical obligation of healthcare organisations to protect current and future patients from preventable harm. The imminent threat of untreatable infections may provide an impetus for a shared organisational and professional commitment to promoting the cultural and behavioural changes needed to successfully reduce the burdens of ABR and drug-resistant HAIs.

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