Continuing Medical Education

Role of infection control in combating antibiotic resistance

A C Whitelaw


Infection control has been identified as one of the key interventions in controlling the threat of antibiotic resistance. Reducing the
transmission of multidrug-resistant organisms (MDROs) reduces the need for broad-spectrum antibiotics in particular, while interventions
that decrease the risk of infection have an impact on the use of any antibiotic. Hand hygiene remains the cornerstone of decreasing the
transmission of MDROs. Alcohol-based hand rubs are a cheap, effective and convenient means of performing hand hygiene. Patients
colonised or infected with MDROs should be placed on contact precautions, although implementation remains challenging in resourcelimited
environments. Screening for certain MDROs may play a role in curbing transmission of these organisms. If implemented, screening
must be part of a comprehensive infection control strategy. In resource-limited settings, the costs and potential benefits of screening
programmes need to be carefully weighed up. Care bundles have been shown to reduce the incidence of common healthcare-associated
infections, including catheter-associated urinary tract infection, ventilator-associated pneumonia, central line-associated bloodstream
infection and surgical site infection. These bundles are relatively inexpensive, and can play an important role in reducing antibiotic use and
improving clinical outcomes.

Author's affiliations

A C Whitelaw, Division of Medical Microbiology, Department of Pathology, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University and National Health Laboratory Service, Tygerberg Hospital, Cape Town, South Africa

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Infection; Antibiotic resistance

Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2015;105(5):421. DOI:10.7196/SAMJ.9650

Article History

Date submitted: 2015-09-18
Date published: 2015-09-18

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