Background: Healthcare associated infections (HAIs) represent a serious problem for public health, as they increase the morbidity and mortality rates, present a relevant financial burden, and significantly contribute to the antimicrobial resistance.
Methods: The aim of this review was to investigate the literature about HAIs, with particular reference to hospital environments and the role of cleaning and disinfection procedures. Hospital environments are an essential reservoir for HAIs cross transmission, and the application of appropriate procedures related to hand hygiene and disinfection/sterilization of surfaces and instruments remain key strategies for controlling HAIs.
Results: Different procedures, based on the risk associated with the healthcare procedure, are recommended for hand hygiene: washing with soap and water, antiseptic rubbing with alcohol-based disinfectants, antiseptic and surgical hand washing. Environmental surfaces can be treated with different products, and the mostly used are chlorine-based and polyphenolic disinfectant. The reprocessing of instruments is related to their use according to the Spaulding's classification. In addition, scientific evidence demonstrated the great relevance of the "bundles" (small set of practices performed together) in controlling HAIs.
Conclusions: Research agenda should include the improvement of well-known effective preventive procedures and the development of new bundles devoted to high-risk procedures and specific microorganisms.
Keywords: Disinfection; Hand hygiene; Healthcare associated infections; Hospital environment.