Interventions to improve water supply and quality, sanitation and handwashing facilities in healthcare facilities, and their effect on healthcare-Associated infections in low-income and middle-income countries: A systematic review and supplementary scoping review

Julie Watson, Lauren D'Mello-Guyett, Erin Flynn, Jane Falconer, Joanna Esteves-Mills, Alain Prual, Paul Hunter, Benedetta Allegranzi, Maggie Montgomery, Oliver Cumming

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)


Introduction Healthcare-Associated infections (HCAIs) are the most frequent adverse event compromising patient safety globally. Patients in healthcare facilities (HCFs) in low-income and middle-income countries (LMICs) are most at risk. Although water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) interventions are likely important for the prevention of HCAIs, there have been no systematic reviews to date. Methods As per our prepublished protocol, we systematically searched academic databases, trial registers, WHO databases, grey literature resources and conference abstracts to identify studies assessing the impact of HCF WASH services and practices on HCAIs in LMICs. In parallel, we undertook a supplementary scoping review including less rigorous study designs to develop a conceptual framework for how WASH can impact HCAIs and to identify key literature gaps. Results Only three studies were included in the systematic review. All assessed hygiene interventions and included: A cluster-randomised controlled trial, a cohort study, and a matched case-control study. All reported a reduction in HCAIs, but all were considered at medium-high risk of bias. The additional 27 before-After studies included in our scoping review all focused on hygiene interventions, none assessed improvements to water quantity, quality or sanitation facilities. 26 of the studies reported a reduction in at least one HCAI. Our scoping review identified multiple mechanisms by which WASH can influence HCAI and highlighted a number of important research gaps. Conclusions Although there is a dearth of evidence for the effect of WASH in HCFs, the studies of hygiene interventions were consistently protective against HCAIs in LMICs. Additional and higher quality research is urgently needed to fill this gap to understand how WASH services in HCFs can support broader efforts to reduce HCAIs in LMICs. PROSPERO registration number CRD42017080943.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere001632
JournalBMJ Global Health
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished or Issued - 1 Jul 2019


  • health education and promotion
  • hygiene
  • prevention strategies
  • public health
  • systematic review

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

Cite this