Background: Health-care-associated infection is the most frequent result of unsafe patient care worldwide, but few data are available from the developing world. We aimed to assess the epidemiology of endemic health-care-associated infection in developing countries.
Methods: We searched electronic databases and reference lists of relevant papers for articles published 1995-2008. Studies containing full or partial data from developing countries related to infection prevalence or incidence-including overall health-care-associated infection and major infection sites, and their microbiological cause-were selected. We classified studies as low-quality or high-quality according to predefined criteria. Data were pooled for analysis.
Findings: Of 271 selected articles, 220 were included in the final analysis. Limited data were retrieved from some regions and many countries were not represented. 118 (54%) studies were low quality. In general, infection frequencies reported in high-quality studies were greater than those from low-quality studies. Prevalence of health-care-associated infection (pooled prevalence in high-quality studies, 15·5 per 100 patients [95% CI 12·6-18·9]) was much higher than proportions reported from Europe and the USA. Pooled overall health-care-associated infection density in adult intensive-care units was 47·9 per 1000 patient-days (95% CI 36·7-59·1), at least three times as high as densities reported from the USA. Surgical-site infection was the leading infection in hospitals (pooled cumulative incidence 5·6 per 100 surgical procedures), strikingly higher than proportions recorded in developed countries. Gram-negative bacilli represented the most common nosocomial isolates. Apart from meticillin resistance, noted in 158 of 290 (54%) Staphylococcus aureus isolates (in eight studies), very few articles reported antimicrobial resistance.
Interpretation: The burden of health-care-associated infection in developing countries is high. Our findings indicate a need to improve surveillance and infection-control practices.
Funding: World Health Organization.
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