Healthcare-associated infections

Reducing the threat of healthcare-associated infections

Advances in healthcare have given rise to a new type of threat.

Healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) are the most frequent adverse event in healthcare.1 Prolonged hospital stays, long-term disability, resistance of microorganisms to antimicrobials, significant financial burdens, and death highlight the threat HAIs pose to patients, their families, and health systems.1

As countries struggle to handle the complexity of HAIs without uniform criteria for diagnosis, these infections have risen sharply, having implications beyond patient health.1,2

  • 5-10% of hospitalizations in Europe and North America result in an HAI, costing Europe an estimated €7 billion annually in direct costs as well as 16 million extra days of hospital stay1,3
  • >40% of hospitalizations in Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Asia result in an HAI, though the financial impact is poorly and variably reported3


While it may be impossible to eliminate HAIs, healthcare facilities can significantly reduce the risk of contracting them.4 Prevention measures include the initiation of surveillance programs and more proactive infection control.

Understanding the role of diagnostics and surveillance

To help coordinate a global response, the World Health Organization (WHO) outlined simple precautions to increase preparedness for these medically-manifested infections.

At the national level, improving reporting and surveillance systems is key to gaining perspective on region-specific challenges. At institutional levels, meeting minimum requirements in terms of facilities and dedicated resources is essential, including sufficient microbiology laboratory capacity.4

Given the potential severity of infections caused by multi-drug resistant organisms (MDRO), laboratories must be able to respond quickly to assist physicians in guiding antibiotic therapy. However, doing so requires more streamlined workflows, highly sensitive and specific assays, and increased investment in emerging diagnostic technologies.

Advancing infection control

Nucleic acid amplification techniques, like polymerase chain reaction (PCR), have played a critical role in accurately screening for and diagnosing infections.

Innovation in PCR has replaced time-consuming manual processes with automated workflows for the screening of infections, like Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and to detect pathogens such as Clostridioides difficile (C. diff). Roche’s continued advancement of PCR technology is transforming the way HAIs are screened for and diagnosed, enabling laboratories to:

  • Deliver a reliable result in 20 minutes or less
  • Test for multiple targets from a single sample
  • Cover a broad range of pathogen strains, including different toxinotypes, ribotypes, and phenotypes


In addition to PCR, other techniques can play an integral role in MDRO screening. Identification and susceptibility testing using culture-based methods may take days to turn around a result. Through Smarticles Technology, Roche continues to innovate with a rapid phenotypic method running on a dedicated automated system that can deliver results in a matter of hours.

While the global threat posed by HAIs is significant, the strides made in combating them are tremendous. As health systems work to develop a plan for the future, advanced diagnostic solutions can maximize the impact of care by helping to keep HAIs under control.

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  1. World Health Organization. The burden of health care-associated infection worldwide. Accessed August 2023.
  2. Haque M, Sartelli M, McKimm J, Abu Bakar M. Health care-associated infections - an overview. Infect Drug Resist. 2018;11:2321-2333.
  3. World Health Organization. Healthcare-associated infections fact sheet. Accessed August 2023.
  4. Healthline. What Are Nosocomial Infections? Accessed August 2023.