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ergomedica has developed a self contained changing mat MedMat with the collaboration of Mr Graeme Moir, who is the head of the plastics department at the Royal London and Barts Hospital Trust and has many years experience in wound care both within the NHS and the private sector.

MedMat protects both patient and clinician and provides a clean environment in which to carry out any procedure that requires a sterile field.

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The Problems

ASEPSIS may be defined as 'the absence or exclusion of bacteria, viruses or other micro-organisms', or in other words a state of being germ free.

ASEPTIC TECHNIQUE is the application of aseptic principles in performing a medical or other procedure.

An ANTISEPTIC is a substance that prevents the growth of disease causing germs, and ANTISEPSIS describes the practice of using antiseptics to reduce disease.

The distinction between these terms is not mere semantics. Defining the language we use is a prerequisite to understanding the principles of what we are trying to achieve. Infection remains the biggest cause of preventable death world wide. In the affluent West we had become to believe that we had largely conquered diseases caused by micro-organisms.

MedMat Hospital

Diseases such as polio, malaria, leprosy and tuberculosis were thought to have been eradicated. However TB is once more a problem in the first world and malaria is still the biggest killer world wide.

It has been said that a failure to understand history condemns us to repeat it.

James Young Simpson (1811-70), professor of surgery in Edinburgh, is remembered for his discovery of chloroform as an anaesthetic. He is also quoted as saying that those entering hospital for surgery were 'exposed to more chances of death than was the English solider on the field of Waterloo.' He was talking of sepsis.

Alexander Gordon (1752-99) wrote a Treatise on the Epidemic Puerperal Fever of Aberdeen in 1795. He introduced the concept of hospital acquired infection and proposed hand hygiene as a means of prevention.

In 1843 Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809-94) in Boston, also believed that childbed fever was caused by 'germs' transmitted by doctors. He also advised hand-washing and advocated clean clothing. His views were fiercely opposed by his powerful peers.

In the 1840s an assistant physician at the Vienna General Hospital called Ignatz Semmelweis (1818-65), proved that student doctors were responsible for transmitting infection from the autopsy room to the delivery ward with their dirty hands, instruments and coats. He showed in 1847 that hand-washing in chlorinated water before deliveries, dramatically reduced mortality.

In the 21st Century some 200 years later history seems to be repeating itself. Since Alexander Fleming (1888-1955) discovered penicillin in 1928 we had come to believe that the war against infection had been won. But the misuse of antibiotics has produced resistant strains of pathogenic bacteria no longer susceptible to standard treatment. These so called 'superbugs' include MRSA, clostridium dificile and acinobacter, but the list is growing.

We are now rediscovering the lessons of the 19th Century, going back to basics with attention to hand-washing and hospital cleaning in an effort to deal with Health Care Attributed Infections HCAIs