Epidemiology of Health Care-Associated and
Health care-associated infections and infections with bacteria that have become resistant against the majority of available antibiotics threaten the success of medical interventions at all levels of health care – primary, secondary and tertiary. Moreover, both health issues often occur combined, (i.e. most health care-associated infections are caused by antibiotic resistant pathogens) and amplify each other (antibiotic resistant pathogens are more likely to cause large hospital outbreaks). Over the last years, these issues have become a common menace with local, national, and global ramifications. Due to the mainly opportunistic behaviour of bacteria which cause hospital-acquired and antibiotic-resistant infections, the most vulnerable segments of societies are affected and consequently, these infections, in contrast to others perceived as threats to public health, such as emerging infections, zoonoses, bioterrorism and pandemic influenza, are perfectly predictable with respect to their relentless expansion.
The group of Health Care and Antimicrobial Resistance Epidemiology explores the occurrence and consequences of health care-associated infections and antibiotic resistance among patients and the communities in Europe and beyond. Based on a decade of experience with the setting up of continent-wide surveillance at the European level (European Antibiotic Resistance Surveillance System, EARSS), current tasks are addressed at three complimentary levels encompassing Populations, Patients, and Pathogens. This division into the three “P”s follows – rather conventionally – the operational and professional fault lines of the main disciplines involved, namely, public health, clinical medicine, and biology. But more importantly, this distribution describes the crucial ecological forces that shape the occurrence and evolution of health care-associated infections and antibiotic resistance in ways that reduce complexity and thereby provide the intuitive basis for a graded approach to interventions at all levels.
The group of Health Care and Antimicrobial Resistance Epidemiology belongs to the bonafide experts in international surveillance of antibiotic resistant bacteria and provides active support to the diagnostic National Reference Laboratories in all EU Member States in molecular epidemiology, capacity building and the exchange of epidemiological data about the spread of bacterial pathogens with particular public health importance. In this respect the group collaborates closely with the Centres for Disease Prevention and Control (EU) of the European Union, the six WHO regional offices in different parts of the world and the WHO headquarters in Geneva.