Hospital infections: additional dangers during hospitalization

Hospital infections: additional dangers during hospitalization

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New estimates of hospital infections published

A hospital stay is anything but pleasant anyway. In addition, there is an often underestimated risk of contracting additional infections. The Robert Koch Institute is now announcing current estimates of how high the risk of becoming infected with germs in hospitals. Hospital germs are an increasing health problem. Many of these pathogens are resistant to antibiotics.

Hospital infections are referred to as nosocomial infections. In order to be able to map the effects of such infections on the health of the population more precisely, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) has now provided new risk estimates that result from infections in hospitals. The results were presented in the "Eurosurveillance" journal.

What infections are rife in the hospital?

For the current study, the researchers looked at the five most common infectious diseases, which make up almost 80 percent of all infections acquired in hospitals. These include

  • Pneumonia,
  • Urinary tract infections,
  • Wound infections,
  • Clostridium difficile infections (diarrhea),
  • Bloodstream infections.

Up to 600,000 hospital infections per year

According to the RKI, the estimated number of nosocomial infections in Germany is between 400,000 and 600,000 cases per year. 10,000 to 20,000 people die each year from an infection acquired in the hospital. Many of the deaths were those with serious underlying illnesses.

Loss of 250,000 years of life a year

For the first time, the so-called Disability-Adjusted Life Years (DALY) were calculated as part of the study. This number indicates the estimated years of life lost as a result of an illness. This allows an assessment of the severity of the illness. In the case of hospital infections, a quarter of a million years of life are lost annually in Germany alone.

What is the risk of contracting a hospital infection?

As the RKI reports, the proportion of patients who get an infection during a hospital stay is 3.6 percent. So for every 100 hospital stays, three to four sufferers suffer an additional infection.

Why is the burden of illness so high in Germany?

"A major reason for the higher disease burden in Germany is the larger number of inpatients and hospital beds treated," write the RKI experts. Germany has the highest number of hospital beds in Europe and the second highest number of hospital patients per 1,000 inhabitants per year.

How can the number of hospital infections be reduced?

"Reducing avoidable hospital stays, together with effective infection control and prevention, are therefore important steps to reduce the burden of illness," said RKI President Lothar Wieler. (vb)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

Graduate editor (FH) Volker Blasek


  • Robert Koch Institute: (RKI): New estimate of the disease burden from hospital infections (accessed: November 15, 2019),
  • Benedikt Zacher, Sebastian Haller, Niklas Willrich, among others: Application of a new methodology and R package reveals a high burden of healthcare-associated infections (HAI) in Germany compared to the average in the European Union / European Economic Area, 2011 to 2012, Eurosurveillance, 2019,

Video: CF Foundation. ResearchCON 2019 Treating and Preventing Infections (January 2023).