What is a Hospital Acquired Infection?

A Hospital Acquired Infection is literally, an infection caught while hospitalized. The medical term for a Hospital Acquired Infection is "nosocomial." Most nosocomial infections are due to bacteria. Since antibiotics are frequently used within hospitals, the types of bacteria and their resistance to antibiotics is different than bacteria outside of the hospital. Nosocomial infections can be serious, difficult to treat and deadly.

A nosocomial infection is strictly and specifically an infection "not present or incubating prior to admittance to the hospital, but generally occurring 72 hours after admittance."

The microorganism Staphylococcus Epidermidis is harmless on human skin, but it is the leading cause of Hospital Acquired Infections and infections of indwelling medical devices. S. Epidermidis is associated with an enormous number of infections in people with prosthetic joints, replacement heart valves, and intravenous catheters, and antibiotic resistance makes it tough to battle. Moreover, the mechanism through which the organism becomes so pathogenic once the protective barrier of the skin is removed remains unclear.

The word "nosocomial" is made up of two Greek words. The prefix "noso-" comes from "nosus" meaning disease and "-comial" comes from "komeion" meaning to take care of. Nosocomial could therefore refer to any affliction acquired by a patient while under medical supervision, but it doesn't. It now refers more narrowly to a hospital-acquired infection.