WHO issues new guidelines to prevent surgical infections, superbugs

Clinicians must only prescribe antibiotics to prevent infections before and during surgery, but not after a procedure, according to new recommendations from the World Health Organization.

The new guidelines aim to cut costs, stop the spread of superbugs and reduce the chance of patient death from surgical site infections, the WHO announced.

The "Global Guidelines for the Prevention of Surgical Site Infection" includes a list of 29 recommendations and was published this week in The Lancet Infectious Diseases.

"No one should get sick while seeking or receiving care," Marie-Paule Kieny, Ph.D., assistant director-general for Health Systems and Innovation at WHO, said in an announcement. "Preventing surgical infections has never been more important but it is complex and requires a range of preventive measures. These guidelines are an invaluable tool for protecting patients."

Surgical-site infections in the U.S. contribute to patients spending more than 400,000 extra days in hospital at a cost of an additional $900 million per year, according to WHO.

To prevent these infections, the guidelines include 13 recommendations prior to surgery and 16 during and after surgery.

The guidelines explain the best way for surgical teams to clean their hands, when to use antibiotics to prevent infections, what disinfectants to use before incision and which sutures to use.

“By applying these new guidelines surgical teams can reduce harm, improve quality of life and do their bit to stop the spread of antibiotic resistance,” Ed Kelley, Ph.D., director of WHO’s Department of Service Delivery and Safety, said in the announcement.