In this study, we have shown that healthcare-associated infections constitute a major healthcare burden in Kazakhstan, which is a rapidly developing nation. Kazakhstan is one of the five Central Asian countries (which also include Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan) that achieved independence in 1991 after the collapse of the Soviet Union [17, 18]. At independence, these Central Asian Post-Soviet (CAPS) countries were faced with many problems; progress to build stronger economies varies between countries. Collapse of the Soviet Union led Kazakhstan as well as the other CAPS countries to economic recession. During the Soviet Union era, there were no wide informational, medical and pharmaceutical exchanges with other countries. On the other hand, the dissolution of the Soviet Union mobilized these countries to democracy which initiated important exchanges of products and knowledge with the other countries. Greater successes have been noted for Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, which are the CAPS countries with the richest natural resources . The healthcare systems of these CAPS countries have also gone through many decades of profound revolutions, whereby the rate and quality of progress of the healthcare sectors vary between these countries . Since independence, the CAPS countries have steadily been receiving more attention at the international arena, especially due to the economic and geographical significance of the region. Over the last two decades, Kazakhstan has made significant progress in economy as well as healthcare sector, although there is still much room for improvement.
To our knowledge, this is the only study to be reported in an international journal describing ICU-related HAI situation from the Central Asian region. In our study, HAI represents a significant healthcare problem with ICU related HAI incidence being about 2 to 5 times higher than the incidence in other in-hospital departments . In our study, patients frequently had the following universal host-related risk factors predisposing to HAI which included advanced age, severity of disease, hyperglycemia, neutropenia, immunosuppressive therapy, cancer diagnosis, and malnutrition. Majority of the patients had at least three of these risk factors. The most common type of HAI in our study was SSI whereby the rate increased significantly (p-value < 0.05) when comparing the year 2014 to 2015 (Table 1 and Fig. 1). Between both years, no intervention was introduced in terms of recommendations to improve upon infection control practices which may have been one of the reason there were no observed decrease in device-associated HAI rates. This high incidence of HAI associated with SSI was due to the fact that the Astana NRCOT is a multidisciplinary hospital focusing on multiple types of surgeries. In most cases, patients also had poor nutritional and altered immune status due to devastating diseases, which were either cancer, kidney and liver failure, diabetes, and coexisting infections at the remote body site. Multiple studies stated that the above mentioned medical conditions predispose patients to the development of SSI [20, 21]. Medical procedures in the hospital were typically prolonged, and patients were prone to intraoperative hypothermia, increasing the risk for SSI . In our setting, colorectal surgery was the most frequently performed surgery, which is recognized as a risk factor for SSI worldwide .
From our study, VAP was identified as the second most common type of HAI. For patients on mechanical ventilation however, VAP was the leading type of infection, which is consistent with reports from multiple other studies [24, 25]. Majority of the patients who developed VAP had COPD, advanced age, H2-antagonists and antibiotics use, and Multiple Organ System Failure . Similar to the SSI associated HAI described above, the rates of VAP also increased significantly when comparing 2014 to 2015 (Table 1 and Fig. 1); this may have also been due to absence of intervention that was implemented to reduce the number of VAP cases in the studied ICU. The third most common type of HAI identified in our study was BSI. Almost all patients who developed BSI had the following risk factors; central vein catheterization, malnutrition and surgery, and infection with highly antibiotic resistant pathogens. These findings are supported by evidence from other studies, which report BSI to occur in 5% of all ICU patients [26, 27].
We found that HAI were predominantly caused by gram-negative pathogens, including P. aeruginosa, K. pneumoniae, and E. coli. These strains were most frequently associated with VAP, SSI, BSI and UTI. From our study, P. aeruginosa was recognized as a causal agent of the most serious HAI in the ICU . This organism was also causing the majority of VAP and BSI in two consecutive years . SSI analogously was mainly caused by gram-negative bacteria, of which P. aeruginosa prevailed in 2014, while K. pneumoniae predominated in 2015. Another interesting finding was with regards to the differences between the length of ICU patient stay, the patient population type, rate of HAI as well as the types of pathogens isolated in 2014 when compared to 2015. Since the period of ICU stay of patients after emergency surgeries was much shorter than after oncological or transplant surgeries, the overall period of ICU stay was longer in 2015. Furthermore, ICU patients’ general condition was better among patients in 2014. Our results showed that the rate of HAIs was increased and the distribution of pathogen also changed in 2015 compared to 2014. We propose that the difference between patient populations in the ICU partially explained the reason for increased number and rates of HAI in 2015 (Table 1 and Fig. 1), as well as the differences in the types of HAI pathogens that were isolated when these pathogen types were compared between the two years of study. With regards to increased HAI rate, both the oncological and transplant patient populations were immunocompromised due to the surgical procedures, and these patients also received immunosuppressant drugs; this led to further decrease in their immune status. Plus, these patients stayed longer in the ICU thereby had higher risk of acquiring ICU-related HAIs. Interestingly, more HAI pathogens that are more commonly associated with multidrug resistance belonging to the “ESKAPE” pathogen group were identified in 2015. This included P. aeruginosa, E. faecalis, K. pneumoniae and A. baumannii (Fig. 2); this is not a surprising finding given that these pathogens are associated with many HAI infections within the last few decades .
There are limitations to this study, which include the fact that data collected did not include patients’ age, sex, and other demographic variables, which might have contributed towards generation of more precise and valuable conclusions. For future studies, the design could include collection of these and other relevant information that would enhance the quality of data and conclusions that can be derived from the study. In this study, some organisms identified were usually not considered common causative agents (such as Candida, Enterococcus faecalis, Staphylococcus epidermidis and Streptococcus mitis for VAP as in Fig. 3a, and S. epidermidis and S. viridans for UTI as shown in Fig. 3c). Such unexpected findings further support our conclusion that there is an urgent and definitive need to improve upon HAI prevention practices which include incorporation of surveillance protocols that meet international standards that can more accurately detect and identify the correct etiological agent (which includes incorporation of quality control measures and established Standard operating procedure) in Kazakhstan and other developing countries within the region. These findings indicate that the surveillance protocols mentioned in the method section were not fully implemented during the study period, which is a major limitation of this study. Therefore the findings from this study demonstrates the need to improve training of infection control personnel regarding the use of and implementation of more stringent practices that meet the international HAI infection control and surveillance guidelines.
HAI is a critical problem for health-care providers worldwide, which should receive appropriate attention for further management. The integrated HAI control program was introduced more than 3 decades ago for the first time, being able to reduce both incidence of infections and related healthcare costs . Unfortunately, many developing countries such as Kazakhstan lack surveillance systems which could effectively decrease incidence of HAIs and healthcare costs for their treatment. Currently, the international guidelines on prevention, diagnosis and treatment of HAI are not actively practiced, and access to newer antibacterial agents is not readily available in Kazakhstan. Within Kazakhstan, there are National and Regional Medical Centers (hospitals). There are no published epidemiological data on HAI from the Regional Medical Centers, therefore, the epidemiological characteristics of HAI from these Centers are unknown. If we compare the National Medical Centers with Regional hospitals, there is an unequal supply of medical equipment and uneven qualification of medical doctors and staff in the latter. For example, several National Medical Centers have internationally educated doctors and staff as well as equipment resembling those that can be found in the best World Class Medical Centers. These medical Centers can be effective in monitoring, diagnosing, treating and preventing the HAI, whereas many Regional (and rural) hospitals do not even follow any guidelines on diagnosis, treatment and preventions of HAIs. The National Medical Centers frequently receive severely ill patients with multiple undiagnosed multi- and pandrug resistant HAI from the Regional Medical Centers.
We propose that the most important recommended measures to prevent HAI at the NRCOT and similar Healthcare Institutions are rational antibacterial therapy, regular infection control audits, and general hygiene measures. Numerous studies in developing countries have shown that the International Nosocomial Infection Control Consortium (INICC) multidimensional infection control strategy with practice bundles can decrease the rate of HAI. Rosenthal et al. found that implementation of a multidimensional infection control strategy can significantly reduce the central line-associated BSI rates in the PICUs of developing countries . In another study, Tao et al. demonstrated that a multidimensional infection control intervention for VAP contributed to a significant cumulative reduction in the VAP rate in their ICUs .
This is a first surveillance study on HAI at the NRCOT since its foundation eight years ago. An active surveillance system monitoring incidence and prevalence of HAI as preventative measures is necessary, and this study represents a first step towards this goal.