Hygiene is a key factor in preventing antibiotic resistance

European Antibiotic Awareness Day, held annually on 18 November, aims to raise awareness of the responsible use of antibiotics and the risks that antibiotic-resistant bacteria pose to public health.

According to the World Health Organization, bacterial resistance to antibiotics is one of the world’s most serious health threats and has been placed on the WHO’s list of the 10 main global health threats. In practice, antibiotic resistance means that bacterial resistance to antibiotics increases so that they are no longer effective against bacterial infection in humans or animals.

“Prevention of infections is extremely important when it comes to antibiotic resistance. All means of reducing infection risks also minimise the need for antibiotics. Good hygiene practices for surfaces, equipment and hands play a crucial role,” says Päivi Godden, who is responsible for hospital hygiene services at Kiilto.

How can antibiotic resistance be prevented?

The responsible use of antibiotics is important, as it helps to maintain their effectiveness in the future. A good rule of thumb is that the use of antibiotics should be avoided to the greatest extent possible. Their responsible use requires a high standard of hygiene in hospitals, veterinary clinics and production facilities.

An essential element in preventing antibiotic resistance is the prevention of infections and the spread of resistant bacteria. Godden points out that the easiest way to achieve this in hospitals and public spaces is to ensure good hand hygiene and cleanliness.

“Hand hygiene has been a prominent issue in 2020. Through it we can all contribute to limiting the spread of many strains of bacteria and viruses. The importance of surface hygiene cannot be emphasised enough, as bacteria thrive only too well on door handles and light switches, for example.”

A key part of an infection prevention strategy is to pay attention to cleaning instructions and to practise measures such as disinfecting contact surfaces and training cleaning staff. Surface hygiene plays a crucial role, as some bacteria can live on surfaces for long periods.

“In hospitals, the spread of resistant bacteria can be prevented by ensuring hand hygiene and the cleanliness of the environment and equipment, as well as sterilisation. Good operating theatre and instrument hygiene allows antibiotics to be used as little as possible”, Godden adds.

“A high standard of hygiene is not only important in interactions between people, but also in production facilities. Antibiotic resistance in animals can be prevented by various means such as by investing in high-quality hygiene programmes and using the appropriate cleaning and disinfectants in veterinary clinics and production facilities,” says Kiilto marketing manager Arja Seppälä.

A three-point checklist:

  1. Some bacteria can live on surfaces for up to 72 hours. Be sure to pay special attention to keyboards on computers and buttons and switches on devices, as well as chairs and other surfaces that are frequently touched.
  2. Disinfectant washing is an effective means of removing pathogens from surfaces.
  3. Good hand hygiene and healthy skin are the best protection against pathogens. Disinfectant hand rubs have been proven effective in situations where washing with soap and water is not possible. It is important to remember to use hand moisturisers regularly.