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Intensive Care Med. 2018 Oct;44(10):1679-1690. doi: 10.1007/s00134-018-5361-z. Epub 2018 Sep 11.

Conflicts of interest in infection prevention and control research: no smoke without fire. A narrative review.

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Infection Control Programme, University of Geneva, Hospitals and Faculty of Medicine, WHO Collaborating Centre on Patient Safety (Infection Control and Improving Practices), Geneva, Switzerland.
Infection Control Programme, University of Geneva, Hospitals and Faculty of Medicine, WHO Collaborating Centre on Patient Safety (Infection Control and Improving Practices), Geneva, Switzerland.
Department of Infectious Diseases, Centro Hospitalar Lisboa Norte and Faculdade de Medicine da Universidade de Lisboa, Lisbon, Portugal.
Institute for Ethics, History, and the Humanities, University of Geneva Medical School, Geneva, Switzerland.
Department of Infectious Diseases and the NIHR Health Protection Research Unit in Healthcare Associated Infections and Antimicrobial Resistance, Imperial College London, London, UK.
Infection Prevention and Control Global Unit, Department of Service Delivery and Safety, World Health Organization, 1211, Geneva, Switzerland.
Infection Control Unit, Bichat-Claude Bernard Hospital (AP-HP), Paris, France.


Conflicts of interest (COIs) do occur in healthcare research, yet their impact on research in the field of infection prevention and control (IPC) is unknown. We conducted a narrative review aiming to identify examples of COIs in IPC research. In addition to well-known instances, we conducted PubMed and Google searches to identify and report case studies of COIs in IPC and antimicrobial resistance (AMR), which were chosen arbitrarily following consensus meetings, to illustrate different types of COIs. We also searched the Retraction Watch database and blog to systematically identify retracted IPC and/or infectious disease-related papers. Our review highlights COIs in academic research linked to ties between industry and physicians, journal editors, peer-reviewed journals' choice for publication, and guideline committees participants and authors. It explores how COIs can affect research and could be managed. We also present several selected case studies that involve (1) the chlorhexidine industry and how it has used marketing trials and key opinion leaders to promote off-label use of its products; (2) the copper industry and how reporting of its trials in IPC have furthered their agenda; (3) the influence of a company developing "closed infusion systems" for catheters and how this affects networks in low- and middle-income countries and guideline development; (4) potential perverse incentives hospitals may have in reporting healthcare-associated infection or AMR rates and how government intervention may restrict AMR research for fear of bad publicity and subsequent negative economic consequences. Finally, the analysis of reasons for the retraction of previously published papers highlights the fact that misconduct in research may have other motivations than financial gain, the most visible form of COIs. COIs occur in the field of research in general, and IPC and AMR are no exceptions. Their effects pervade all aspects of the research and publication processes. We believe that, in addition to improvements in management strategies of COIs, increased public funding should be available to decrease researchers' dependency on industry ties. Further research is needed on COIs and their management.


Antimicrobial resistance; Conflicts of interest; Industry sponsorship; Infection prevention and control; Integrity; Public-private partnerships; Retraction


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