Ethics of Infection Control Measures for Carriers of Antimicrobial Drug-Resistant Organisms

Emerg Infect Dis. 2018 Sep;24(9):1609-1616. doi: 10.3201/eid2409.171644.


Many countries have implemented infection control measures directed at carriers of multidrug-resistant organisms. To explore the ethical implications of these measures, we analyzed 227 consultations about multidrug resistance and compared them with the literature on communicable disease in general. We found that control measures aimed at carriers have a range of negative implications. Although moral dilemmas seem similar to those encountered while implementing control measures for other infectious diseases, 4 distinct features stand out for carriage of multidrug-resistant organisms: carriage presents itself as a state of being; carriage has limited relevance for the health of the carrier; carriage has little relevance outside healthcare settings; and antimicrobial resistance is a slowly evolving threat on which individual carriers have limited effect. These features are of ethical relevance because they influence the way we traditionally think about infectious disease control and urge us to pay more attention to the personal experience of the individual carrier.

Keywords: MDRO; antimicrobial resistance; bacteria; carrier; control measures; ethics; infection control; multidrug-resistant organisms; the Netherlands.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Carrier State*
  • Communicable Disease Control*
  • Drug Resistance, Multiple, Bacterial*
  • Humans