Karen Giuliano, PhD: Oral Care to Reduce Hospital Infections


New data may evidence oral care as a therapeutic measure to reduce bacterial and viral spread.

New data presented at IDWeek 2020 showed an 85% associated reduction in non-ventilator hospital-acquired pneumonia (NVHAP) infections in a medical center through 12 months among patients given oral care from nurses and nursing assistants, versus those provided standard care.

As the most common hospital-acquired infection, NVHAP’s significant reduction among patients given the very rudimentary oral care inspired investigators at the University of Massachusetts Amherst to consider the benefit of oral care as a therapeutic, not comfort, measure. Led by associate professor Karen Giuliano, PhD, they are now pursuing a randomized, controlled trial.

In the second segment of an interview with Contagion® during IDWeek, Giuliano explained how there may be added benefits for reducing mortality or lengthier hospital stay among patients with viral infection, including coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19).

Recent data from Germany has indicated antiseptic mouthwash could reduce COVID-19 viral load in the mouths of patients—meaning lessened risk of hospital spread.

“In previous viral pandemics, a lot of times you get sick from the virus, but what makes you really sick is the secondary bacterial infections, which is really what we’re talking about with hospital-acquired bacterial pneumonia,” she said.

Giuliano also explained how oral therapeutic care would likely fall to nurses and nursing assistants—a pair of positions already burdened with work in hospital settings.

“There’s not a lot of downsides to keeping a person’s mouth clean,” she said. “What we compete against is nurses, nursing assistants, and frontline clinicians of every kind dealing with tons of competing demands every day—and certainly, that’s worse with COVID.”

Watch the full interview with Giuliano in the video above.

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