Researchers Detect Outdated Infection Prevention Guidelines


Several World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines related to infection prevention and control (IPC) of infections associated with healthcare have been issued over the past decades. In a presentation at the International Conference on Prevention & Infection Control (ICPIC) held in Geneva, Switzerland. 29 June 29 through July 2, 2011, S.P. Montes, a member of the World Health Organization from Hanoi, Vietnam, and colleagues, reported on their review of all available WHO IPC-related guidelines.

All WHO IPC-related guidelines accessible through WHO website published until December 2009 were appraised, and the technical content of each document was examined against current policies and standards promoted by WHO. Definitions: "active WHO document" is considered to be an official WHO document available on the WHO web site; classification of guidelines regarding alignment with current recommendations: (1) "valid" (2) "out of date."

The researchers evaluated 87 IPC documents; 12 non-relevant to IPC were excluded, and 31 guidelines produced by 11 departments were identified and appraised. Thirteen of /31 guidelines (42 percent) were considered out of date regarding Standard Precautions (eight documents), disinfection (six documents), sterilization of medical equipment (six documents), and preparedness for epidemics (three documents). Outdated messages included ineffective and unsafe practices (e.g., disinfection of disposable sharps, fumigation of the environment with formaldehyde, use of personal protective equipment). Most out of date guidelines (10/13) were issued before 2001 as compared to valid ones (1/18) (P = 0.0001).

The search targeted documents that are specific or closely related to the IPC field, but due to the cross-cutting nature of IPC this inventory may not include all WHO documents including IPC recommendations. The IPC field has rapidly evolved and the audience should look for most recent and evidence-based documents to guide practices.

Reference: Montes SP, Otaiza F, Watson M, Eremin S, Hill S and Pessoa-Silva CL. Appraisal of World Health Organization (WHO) infection prevention and control guidelines. Oral presentation at International Conference on Prevention & Infection Control (ICPIC). 2011. BMC Proceedings 2011, 5(Suppl 6):P281doi:10.1186/1753-6561-5-S6-P281.

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