The prevalence of health-care associated infections (HAIs) in Europe is high. On any given day 6.7% of the patients in European hospitals is suffering from a HAI. For patients admitted to Intensive Care Units (ICUs) the prevalence is markedly higher and in this setting at least one HAI for 19.5% of the patients is encountered.
Another commonly seen problem is associated with the prevalence of infections related to food- and waterborne diseases in Europe. Almost any individual will experience at least once per lifetime a food- or waterborne disease, most frequently with mild symptoms and self-limiting course. However, each year more than 300.000 patients are admitted to European hospitals of which at least 600 patients eventually will die as a consequence.
HAIs and food borne diseases are a growing public healthcare problem leading to a considerable burden of disease and huge economic costs. Simultaneously, antimicrobial resistance is emerging with several bacterial species demonstrating resistance to last resort antibiotics.
As hospital surfaces potentially are heavily contaminated with bacteria environmental cleanliness can be considered an essential aspect to reduce HAIs. However, we know from observational studies that less than 50% of hospital room surfaces are adequately cleaned and disinfected. Moreover, healthcare workers are important vectors in the transmission of micro-organisms between different surfaces, wards or patients.
Novel materials and cleaning techniques have been developed, but most are expensive and can only be safely used for terminal cleaning (e.g. ultraviolet germicidal irradiation, hydrogen peroxide vapor, etcetera). Self-disinfecting surfaces circumvent these problems. Once applied antimicrobial surfaces will continuously reduce the bioburden of pathogens potentially preventing their transmission and as a consequence may decrease HAIs or food borne diseases.