New surgical advice bids to cut hospital "superbugs"

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The World Health Organization guidelines advise not giving patients antibiotics after surgery, as is often the case. Photo: WHO/Jim Holmes

Preventing hospital patients from catching so-called superbugs is a growing problem, but now the UN health agency has come up with a blueprint to cut infection rates.

Launched on Thursday, the World Health Organization's (WHO) Global Guidelines for the Prevention of Surgical Site Infection features recommendations from leading experts.

And as Daniel Johnson reports, their advice includes telling people to wash but not shave before surgery, and to use antibiotics before and during operations, but not afterwards.

In low and middle-income countries today, more than one in 10 patients who undergo surgery are infected in the process – millions of people.

The World Health Organization (WHO) believes no-one should get sick while seeking or receiving care.

So it's asked 20 leading experts to come up with recommendations that should be followed by health professionals and patients before, during and after surgery.

In Africa, up to one in five women who have a Caesarean section contract an infection; this compromises their own health and their ability to care for their babies.

The problem of surgical infection is growing around the world; in the United States, it contributes to a US$ 900,000 million bill to look after patients who need to stay in hospital for extra treatment.

The new guidelines range from simple precautions, such as ensuring that patients bathe or shower before surgery, to guidance on the best sutures to use.

Addressing antibiotic resistance is also a key element of the WHO campaign.

The drugs are needed to treat infections but the UN agency says that antibiotics should not be used after surgery, as is often the case.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations, Geneva

Duration: 1'10"


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