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Journal Articles Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America Year : 2009

Peripatetic health-care workers as potential superspreaders


Many nosocomial outbreaks exhibit “superspreading events” in which cross-transmission occurs via a single individual to a large number of patients. We investigated how heterogeneity in Health-Care Worker (HCW) behaviors, especially compliance to hand hygiene, may cause superspreading events. In particular, we compared the superspreading potential of peripatetic (noncohorted) HCWs with that of other HCWs. We developed an agent-based model for hand transmission of a pathogen in a hospital ward. Three HCW profiles were allowed: 2 assigned profiles, one with frequent contacts with a limited number of patients, another with fewer contacts but with more patients; and one peripatetic profile, with a single daily contact with all patients. We used data from the literature on common nosocomial pathogens (Staphylococcus aureus, Enterococci). The average number of patients colonized over 1 month increases with noncompliance to hand hygiene. Importantly, we show that this increase depends on the profile of noncompliant HCWs; for instance, it remains low for a single noncompliant assigned HCW but can be quite large for a single noncompliant peripatetic HCW. Outbreaks with this single fully noncompliant peripatetic HCW (representing only 4.5% of the staff) are similar to those predicted when all HCWs are noncompliant following 23% of patient contacts. Noncompliant peripatetic HCWs may play a disproportionate role in disseminating pathogens in a hospital ward. Their unique profile makes them potential superspreaders. This suggests that average compliance to hygiene may not be a good indicator of nosocomial risk in real life health care settings with several HCW profiles.

Dates and versions

hal-03201369 , version 1 (18-04-2021)



Laura Temime, Lulla Opatowski, Yohan Pannet, Christian Brun-Buisson, Pierre Yves Boëlle, et al.. Peripatetic health-care workers as potential superspreaders. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 2009, 106 (43), pp.18420-18425. ⟨10.1073/pnas.0900974106⟩. ⟨hal-03201369⟩
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