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The impact of portable high-efficiency particulate air filters on the incidence of invasive aspergillosis in a large acute tertiary-care hospital

Background: Worldwide, the frequency of invasive fungal infections has been increasing, with a corresponding increase in the numbers of high-risk patients. Exposure reduction through the use of high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters has been the preferred primary preventive strategy for these high-risk patients. Although the efficiency and benefits of fixed HEPA filters is well proven, the benefits of portable HEPA filters are still inconclusive.

Methods: This was a retrospective study to assess the impact of 48 portable HEPA filter units deployed in selected wards in Singapore General Hospital, an acute tertiary-care hospital in Singapore. Data were extracted between December 2005 and June 2008 on the diagnoses at discharge and microbiological and histological laboratory findings. All patients with possible, probable, or proven invasive aspergillosis (IA) were included.

Results: In wards with portable HEPA filters, the incidence rate of IA of 34.61/100,000 patient-days in the preinstallation period was reduced to 17.51/100,000 patient-days in the postinstallation period (P 5 .01), for an incidence rate ratio of 1.98 (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.10-2.97). In wards with no HEPA filters, there was no significant change in the incidence rate during the study period. Portable HEPA filters were associated with an adjusted odds ratio of 0.49 (95% CI, 0.28-0.85; P 5 .01), adjusted for diagnosis and length of hospital stay.

Conclusions: Portable HEPA filters are effective in the prevention of IA. The cost of widespread portable HEPA filtration in hospitals will be more than offset by the decreases in nosocomial infections in general and in IA in particular.

Key Words: Invasive aspergillosis; high-efficiency particulate air filter; invasive fungal infection.

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