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New surveillance toolkit to bolster infection prevention and control efforts in NICUs
Author: Media Statement - NeoIPC Consortium
Published: 09/11/2023

The NeoIPC Consortium, of which Stellenbosch University is a member, has launched a new surveillance toolkit to help neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) track and prevent hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) in high-risk newborns, including very preterm infants. This toolkit, which is available free of charge online, provides NICUs with essential tools to collect data on infection rates and risk factors and make evidence-based decisions about their infection prevention and control (IPC) strategies. 

“HAIs pose a significant threat to newborn babies, especially very preterm infants and those with very low birth weight," says Dr Brar Piening, Senior Physician at the Institute of Hygiene and Environmental Medicine at Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin (Germany) who heads the team developing the NeoIPC surveillance toolkit. “Routine HAI surveillance is a critical component of IPC, and the NeoIPC toolkit streamlines the implementation of this important practice for NICUs." 

The NeoIPC surveillance system is based on standardised definitions and data collection methods, making it easy for NICUs to compare their data with benchmarking data generated from other participating NICUs in the same region and around the world. 

It has been developed in the context of the EU Horizon 2020-funded project NeoIPC, which is led by the University of Padua and the Penta Foundation (Italy). NeoIPC aims to evaluate the effectiveness of kangaroo care in combination with HAI surveillance and implementation support in reducing severe neonatal infections and sepsis in hospitalised newborns. 

“The NeoIPC surveillance toolkit is the result of many months of intense work and collaboration among NeoIPC partners," Dr Julia Bielicki, Senior Researcher at the Centre for Neonatal and Paediatric Infection of St George's, University of London (United Kingdom), Penta ID Network member and NeoIPC Project Coordinator emphasises. “We are excited to make this toolkit available to NICUs around the world, and we hope that it will help to improve IPC practices and to reduce the incidence of HAIs in newborns." 

The toolkit has been developed by researchers with longstanding experience in surveillance and neonatology at Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin (Germany); St George's, University of London (United Kingdom); Osakidetza – Servicio Vasco de Salud (Spain); and Stellenbosch University (South Africa). 

Through the NeoIPC surveillance system, NICUs will collect data about high-risk infants, including their birth weight, gestational age, length of NICU stay, and the use of invasive devices such as central vascular catheters or ventilation support. They will also monitor occurrences of common types of hospital-acquired infections, namely bloodstream infections, pneumonia, surgical site infections, and necrotizing enterocolitis. 

The NeoIPC surveillance system will be piloted in 24 NICUs across Greece, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom in 2024. All materials are available free of charge on the NeoIPC website for any NICU planning to participate in the NeoIPC surveillance or to establish their own HAI surveillance programme. 

To learn more about the NeoIPC surveillance toolkit, the NeoIPC Consortium is hosting an online launch event on Thursday, 23rd November 2023, from 16:00-17:30 CET. This informative webinar is open to clinicians and practitioners interested in surveillance and IPC methods. Registration is mandatory.