Changing behaviour to reduce infections

Controlling healthcare associated infections and antibiotic prescription and use were among the core topics discussed at the symposium on «Internal medicine - the power of faith in the age of wonder», at Leaping Forward.


«Change is necessary. Absolutely necessary». The views of José Artur Paiva, conveyed during the symposium on «Internal medicine – the power of faith and science in the age of wonder» at Leaping Forward, gathered the consensus of the audience in Auditorium 2, at Hospital da Luz.

Before an audience mostly composed of physicians, the director of the National Programme for Infection Control and Prevention and Anti-microbial Resistance thus appealed to all health professionals to address this issue as a priority and to consecrate part of their working hours to it.

After all, the rate of hospital infections in Portuguese hospitals increases every year, our country being amongst the worst performers Europewide, José Artur Paiva underlined. But there is more. The prescription and use of antibiotics and subsequent resistance to this type of medication is «a serious problem among us, which we must address» he added.

«Necessary change» begins with the behaviour of health professionals themselves, he stated, and with the involvement of health institutions, who must participate actively in the infection monitoring systems linked to healthcare and antibiotic resistance, he continued. «This is one of the goals of our National Programme by 2015», he highlighted.

Next, Carlos Palos, director of the emergency department of Hospital Beatriz Ângelo (the hospital managed by a public-private partnership with Espírito Santo Saúde) and chairman of the hospital infection board at that hospital, addressed the registration system for antibiotic use at HBA, which prevents the prescription of these medicines where the Hospital's protocol has not been complied with. He also introduced the infections alarm system, which is functional in the emergency department screening registration at HBA, an innovative model for the control infections like these inside the hospital.

Maria Mota, researcher at the Institute for Molecular Medicine (IMM), Lisbon University's Faculty of Medicine, also attended this symposium, at Leaping Forward, and presented some data on her research into malaria. Maria Mota, who was recently awarded a prize for her findings in this field, recalled that malaria kills three thousand children a day and over a million adults a year. Every year approximately 400 million people worldwide are infected.

«This is a clean disease, transmitted by mosquitoes. This is not a disease of the poor, but it is a factor of poverty, because it compromises infected adults' productive capacity and compromises the future of sick children», she said.

Maria Mota clarified the meaning of her research and discussed the expectations regarding the discovery of vaccination protection against malaria. «One is expected to be approved, possibly in a year's time, albeit with only 30% of efficacy. I doubt that in next ten years a truly effective vaccine will appear», she confessed.

Scientist Maria do Carmo Fonseca followed, and described how science can help internal medicine. João Sá, chief of internal medicine and of the intensive care unit at Hospital da Luz and director of this symposium, mentioned the shift in the role of internists in that hospital.