The role of the laboratory in infection prevention and AMS

Louise Davis1

1 Communicable Diseases Branch. Queensland Health, PO Box 2368 fortitude Valley BC, QLD, 4006,

The microbiology laboratory is an essential resource for your facility’s infection prevention (IP)and antimicrobial stewardship (AMS) programs. Make your local microbiology staff your best friends.

The laboratory’s role in terms of the IP program includes assisting in the surveillance, treatment, control and prevention of healthcare associated infections (HAIs). This is carried out in the first instance by accurately, consistently and rapidly identifying the causative infectious agents and confirming their susceptibility patterns. The laboratory acts as a surveillance and early warning system for HAI where prompt notification to clinicians and infection prevention staff can initiate investigations which may lead to preventative measures to halt the spread of infections. The investigation of outbreaks is often accompanied by closer investigation of isolates by the laboratory to establish their relatedness which assists with the management of the outbreak and help identify the source of the infection.

The AMS program benefits from a microbiology service that provides reports with interpretive comments on the significance of isolates along with selective reporting of susceptibility and antimicrobial advice. Hospital prescribing guidelines can only be generated when local resistance information is available. The collation of annual cumulative antibiograms by the laboratory for the AMS Committee provides the evidence base for the development of prescribing guidelines by providing a snapshot of resistances in common infections for the local site.

The microbiologist should be a permanent member of both the facility’s IP Committee and the AMS Committee, but more importantly visit them regularly, you’ll be made welcome and they won’t bite!