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Swiss physician Didier Pittet receives the 2017 Robert Koch Prize

Award-winner laid the foundation for one of the most successful WHO campaigns for protecting patient safety 25 years ago.

Berlin. Professor Didier Pittet has received the "2017 Award for Hospital Hygiene and Infection Prevention" from the Robert Koch Foundation in Berlin for his groundbreaking work in promoting better hand hygiene for preventing nosocomial infections. He, who is the manager of the Department for Hospital Hygiene at the Geneva University and External Director of the “Clean Care is Safer Care” WHO program, is together with Professor Helge Karch (Münster) and Professor Petra Gastmeier (Berlin) the third winner of the award. It is endowed with 50,000€. The award ceremony took place at the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences yesterday. B. Braun Melsungen AG has supported the award, granted every two years, since it was first awarded in 2013. This year, the company did so together with the health insurance company BARMER Krankenkasse. 

Millions of people die every year from so-called "nosocomial" infections, which they contract in hospitals or care facilities. The WHO campaign "Clean Care is Safer Care", managed by Professor Pittet, claims to save the lives of five to eight million people per year. With the slogan "SAVE LIVES: Clean Your Hands" it is committed to improve hand hygiene as a key requirement, according to the press release from the Robert Koch Foundation. At the present, there are national campaigns in more than 50 countries, such as "Aktion Saubere Hände", "Mission Mains Propres" or "STOP! Clean your hands." Nearly 20,000 hospitals and healthcare institutions from 177 countries or regions – from A (for Afghanistan) to Z (for Zimbabwe) – have committed as registered participants to permanently integrate consistent hand disinfection into everyday clinical work. 

"Today we recognize a true pioneer in large-scale epidemiological research, and particularly in hand hygiene, which he has brought to the world according to the Geneva model since 2005", explained Prof. Dr. h.c. Ludwig Georg Braun, Chairman of the B. Braun Supervisory Board, in his welcoming address at the award ceremony. "Special recognition applies to his life’s work, which improves the fight against pandemics and infectious diseases all around the world", he continued.

"Nevertheless, we must also emphatically address the challenges we face today in hygiene research", Braun emphasized. Lifestyle changes, environmental influences, rapid urbanization, changing nutrition and the use of antibiotics have profound effects on human microbiology (the totality of all microorganisms found in humans), according to the latest research. "Referring to everything we now know, the microbiome plays an important role in preventing infectious diseases and allergies." 

For B. Braun, the optimization of hygiene and safety standards takes high priority. "The consequences of hospital germs can be devastating, making it even more important to strive for optimal hygiene and to protect against infections", Prof. Dr. Alexander Schachtrupp, Manager in the Department of Medicine and Science at B. Braun and member of the jury, reported. He further stated: "B. Braun has been active in this field for a long time – with its own products and services, and with initiatives for designing and improving hygiene as well as safety standards."  

About the award

Approximately 500,000 patients contract hospital infections every year in Germany. This number shows that high-performance medicine has reached its limits. Improvements to the implementation of hospital hygiene measurements and the development of new strategies for therapy and prevention of nosocomial infections are therefore urgently required. For that reason, the Robert Koch Foundation created the "Award for Hospital Hygiene and Infection Prevention" in 2013. The goal of the award is to uncover exemplary work in the field of hospital hygiene and infection prevention. The award is intended to serve as incentive to improve the hygiene standards in our hospitals through new scientific and application-based projects. The intention is to award the prize also on the European level in the future. 

A photo and resume of the award winner can be found at: