The antibiotic resistance crisis resolved by bacteriophages

I am regularly asked why we don’t treat infections caused by multidrug resistant bacteria with bacteriophages. Last Friday, the same question made it to the best viewed talkshow on Dutch television (The World Turns On), and in about 10 minutes the global threat of antibiotic resistance was resolved. Here is how….  Continue reading

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Publish or perish

Our careers (at least partly) depend on our publications. The more, the better and to suit our needs we have a journal for any kind of publication. Sometimes, you read something and you may think “Hey, I have seen that before”. If the new study than confirms a previous finding, we apparently have a reproducible fact, which increases the likelihood that it is indeed true. Here is an example. Or not? Continue reading

Synbiotics and neonatal sepsis

With this blog I am leaving my beaten path: neonatal sepsis and probiotics. But so does this double-blind placebo-controlled study published today in Nature. To me, probiotics are still “something promising since 25 years”, without ever having substantiated that promise (like Ajax and the Chicago Cubs, until recently). In fact, colleagues of mine once led a study in which probiotics apparently killed patients with acute pancreatitis. This new study may change my view completely.

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Sloppy science & good read

I’m packing for vacation. The book that I will NOT pack is: Rigor Mortis, how sloppy science creates worthless cures, crushes hope and wastes billions by Richard Harris. I read it already two times, and anyone interested in science, or trying to deliver a piece of it once in a while, should read it. It makes you realise what we do, what we publish and what we read. And then, it makes you humble (or sad, or furious, or happy). Continue reading

Exposed: Dutch clinical microbiologists

Exposed; that’s what we are. We, Dutch clinical microbiologists. Globally acknowledged for our capacity to control antibiotic resistance, prevent hospital-acquired infections (HAI) and practice the most rational and restrictive antibiotic policies. That we are self-confident, loud and arrogant  is taken for granted, as most do with Christiano Ronaldo. But it is with great sadness that I have to announce that it was all FAKE. The balloon was pricked by professor Marcel Levi. Continue reading

Good in 2017: preprint publishing

My blog on the “disease called peer review” (Dec 12th) evoked many comments (including from some journal editors), and these directed me to the concept of preprint publishing. Physicists started this 25 years ago, and were followed by mathematicians, computer scientists, and more recently by biologists. It is not yet widely known or practiced in the medical sciences. At least I was barely familiar with it, but I can only admit that this may well help to cure the “disease called peer review“ and H-indexitis. Continue reading

The day after the WIP died

Yesterday, Andreas Voss heartbreakingly described the end of the Workinggroup Infection Prevention (WIP) in the Netherlands. Yet, the end of the WIP is not the end of the Netherlands. The WIP enormously contributed to the success of Dutch infection control and then ran towards it’s own grave, where many now cry (some like a crocodile).

In the final moments before death, nobody was willing to rescue the patient. What went wrong? The government didn’t want to pay for infection prevention guidelines, as they may feared they would then need to pay for all guideline. More fascinating is that the beneficiaries of succesfull infection control, hospitals, didn’t want to pay either. Either they take infection control for granted or were no longer pleased with these guidelines.

Now, let’s look at the crime scene. The WIP created 136 guidelines! You name it, we have a guideline for it. Haircutters in the hospital? Hospital beds? We have it. All these guidelines were drafted by professionals with the best intentions, mostly for free and in absence of convincing scientific evidence for specific recommendations. No problem, as long as we can use them as “best practices” or recent updates for practitioners.

But the world changed. For every unexpected event in the healthcare system someone is to be blamed, for instance the Health Inspectorate, as they should reassure good care. So, they think: “I don’t wanna be blamed. How can we control that system? Wait a minute, they have guidelines and we just check whether they adhere to their own guidelines”. An understandable point of view.

So, we (as healthcare professionals) are now confronted with “sometimes-not-so-usefull-guidelines” to which we should adhere. As long as we can tick the box of adherence we’re safe. For instance, achieving adherence to the guideline of airway management in ORs has resulted in enormous financial investments for hospitals, without any evidence that it increased patient safety.

The death of the WIP can be used to break this chain. Let’s go back to a few multidisciplinary guidelines on things we really agree on: WIP2.0. Maintaining these guidelines will not be expensive (and can easily be covered by a professional society). And where evidence is lacking, professionals rely on their knowledge and experience, share on best practices and talk to each other when in doubt or need of support.