Hospital Infection: From Miasmas to MRSA

Overview

The continuing battle to control hospital infections has ranged from the earliest days of hospital care when bad air or miasma was thought to be the cause, to the present day emergence of antibiotic-resistant "superbugs" such as MRSA and necrotizing fasciitis. This social history of hospital care surveys the rise, fall and re-emergence of new nosocomial infections and documents the development of medical microbiology and infection control.

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Overview

The continuing battle to control hospital infections has ranged from the earliest days of hospital care when bad air or miasma was thought to be the cause, to the present day emergence of antibiotic-resistant "superbugs" such as MRSA and necrotizing fasciitis. This social history of hospital care surveys the rise, fall and re-emergence of new nosocomial infections and documents the development of medical microbiology and infection control.

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Editorial Reviews

Doody's Review Service
Reviewer: Farrin A Manian, MD, MPH (Massachusetts General Hospital)
Description: This is an interesting book devoted to the history of infections in hospitals and measures to control them particularly over the last five centuries. It serves as a ready reference for the reader who is interested in learning about "how we got to where we are" in the practice of infection control in modern hospitals.
Purpose: The purpose is to trace the history of hospital infections to the current epoch. The book should be welcomed by any professional interested in infectious diseases and infection control. The authors meet their objectives with a heavy bias in covering British hospitals.
Audience: Although the authors do not specify an audience for their book, in my judgment it would be useful for anyone interested in the history of infection control in hospitals, including hospital epidemiologists, infectious disease specialists, and professionals in infection control. Both authors are credible authorities in this field.
Features: The book covers a variety of infections associated with hospitalization throughout the centuries, theories of their causation and transmission, and discusses the evolving measures devised to deal with them. The importance of sterilization and disinfection in the twentieth century is explored in a dedicated chapter. The challenges of controlling antimicrobial resistant organisms (e.g. methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) among increasingly debilitated hospitalized patients receives due attention. Shortcomings include some repetition in content among chapters and disproportionate coverage of British hospitals compared to other European or American hospitals. Occasional misleading and inaccurate statements are also found. For example, Chapter 10 is entitled "The twentieth century: the emergence of antimicrobial chemotherapy and the demise of the haemolytic streptococcus." For many practitioners who encounter severe streptococcal infections (e.g. necrotizing fascitis, or streptococcal toxic-shock syndrome) on a regular basis, the news of the "demise" of hemolytic streptococcus seems to be grossly exaggerated. Furthermore, when discussing emergence of antibiotic-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, vancomycin is considered "toxic, requires continual monitoring, and is not an ideal therapeutic agent" with reference given to a 1963 article. Many practitioners in infectious disease would beg to differ with this view, given the extensive safety record of vancomycin.
Assessment: Overall, this is an interesting book that should be of great use for anyone who wants to learn more about the history of infectious disease in hospitals. I am not aware of any other comparable book published in recent times that is solely dedicated to achieving this goal.
From the Publisher
"The authors write well and concisely...it is an excellent, enlightening book..." Jan V. Hirschmann MD, Respiratory Care

"...a thorough and comprehensive review of the historic relationship between hospitals and infections. ...an excellent addtion to the topic and one that should be recommended reading for anyone interested in the problem." Nursing History Review

"...an excellent, well-organized history of the subject as well as a thorough overview of current and future challenges. Highly recommended for academic and medical libraries." E-STREAMS

"This is valuable reading for anyone who wants to know more about the current state of things and how we got here..." Health Service Journal

"History and social policy discussions are skillfully combined." Canadian Nurse

"Graham Ayliffe and Mary English offer a fascinating account of how the relation between hospitals and infection has altered through the centuries..." Lancet

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521819350
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 6/28/2003
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 6.85 (w) x 9.72 (h) x 0.83 (d)

Table of Contents

Foreword
Preface
1 Theories of infection: from magic to miasmas 1
2 The Middle Ages to the seventeenth century: hospitals and infection 10
3 The eighteenth century: hospitals and infection 24
4 The eighteenth and nineteenth centuries: typhus in military and civilian hospitals 37
5 The nineteenth century before Lister: military hospitals and wound infection, civilian hospitals and 'hospitalism' 68
6 Theories of infection: from miasmas to microbes 87
7 Antisepsis to asepsis 104
8 The twentieth century: hospitals and miscellaneous infections 118
9 The twentieth century: the emergence of antimicrobial chemotherapy and the demise of the haemolytic streptococcus 134
10 The twentieth century: sterilization, sterile services and disinfection 141
11 The mid-twentieth century: the emergence of antibiotic-resistant Staphylococcus aureus 153
12 The mid-twentieth century: Gram-negative bacilli 163
13 The control of staphylococcal and Gram-negative infections 171
14 The surveillance of infection and the organization of infection control 186
15 Emerging diseases at the end of the twentieth century 200
16 The past, present and future 219
References 236
Bibliography 265
Index 267
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