Health care environment a new research priority

With pathogens like Clostridium difficile and multidrug-resistant Acinebactor — which can linger on surfaces and fomites for prolonged periods — the health care environment is among the top priority research areas to prevent health care associated infections (HAIs).

"The environment has kind of waxed and waned," said Russell Olmsted, MPH, CIC, president of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC). "In the early 70s we said the environment wasn't important, now it has resurged with a vengeance."

Olmsted outlined the top priorities for infection prevention — as determined by the APIC Science, Knowledge and Implementation Network (ASK-IN) — recently in Baltimore at the annual APIC educational conference.

"Most importantly we saw a need to improve staffing and infrastructure for infection preventionists," he said.

Multidrug resistant organisms (MDROs) made an expected appearance on the list, with Olmsted encouraging infection preventionists to get more involved in antibiotic stewardship programs.

"Antimicrobial stewardships is what you do — you collect a lot of data," he told APIC attendees. "There is a rich opportunity for us to look at things that we are collecting already and share. We do a lot of MDRO and C. diff infection surveillance. We need to share that with colleagues to [guide] antimicrobial stewardship programs."

The ASK-IN top priorities for infection prevention research include:

• Isolation (when it's needed, not and how)

• The environment, cleaning and infection risk from fomites

• Preventing surgical site infections

• Infection Prevention in "other" settings

— Pediatrics and neonates

— Long Term care

— Behavioral Health

• New technology / devices / disinfectants to prevent HAIs

• Staffing the Infection Prevention Department

• Economics and business case development

• Multidrug resistant organisms (including MRSA, C. diff and gram negative rods)

Formerly the APIC Research Foundation, ASK-IN was developed by the 2010 Board of Directors to provide a more agile management structure and to expedite review of the increasing number of projects presented to the association. The program is based on the principles of translational research, often called implementation science. This process examines the best methods to move relevant laboratory based research findings into actual patient care.