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Revista chilena de infectología

versión impresa ISSN 0716-1018


CABELLO, Felipe. Clostridium difficile epidemic, Chile 2012: Report of the Chilean Society for Infectious Diseases. A scientific historical analysis. Rev. chil. infectol. [online]. 2012, vol.29, n.4, pp.473-476. ISSN 0716-1018.

A Summary Report from the Chilean Society for Infectious Diseases regarding the presence of a Clostridium difficile epidemic with several fatalities in Chile's premier emergency public hospital in Santiago is used to make a scientific historical analysis of the situation. This Summary Report identifies several hygienic and sanitary shortcomings that may have played a role in triggering this major epidemic. These include deficiencies in hand washing policies, overcrowding of beds in wards, relaxation of infection control policies, antimicrobial therapy mismanagement and lack of laboratory support. The relevance of these shortcomings to the epidemic is further supported by the lack of any laboratory evidence for the presence of hypertoxigenic strains of C. difficile. In an era of whole genome sequencing of pathogens to guide therapy, prevention, and epidemiological studies of infectious diseases, it is illuminating and sobering, as this report so clearly demonstrates, to realize that many epidemics of hospital infections still result from breakdowns in classical and ancillary asepsis and infection control measures developed in the nineteenth century by Semmelweis, Nightingale and Lister. As the Summary Report suggests, such hygienic breakdowns in countries like Chile are usually brought about by lack of implementation and regulation of national hospital infection control policies resulting from the shift of economic resources from the public to the private sector, despite the former being responsible for health care of 80% of the population.

Palabras clave : Clostridium difficile; epidemics; history of medicine; 19th Century.

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