New director focuses even more on digitalisation
Berlin, 09 November 2023
The Institute of Hygiene and Environmental Medicine at Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin has a new Director: Prof. Dr Christine Geffers took over as Director of the Institute on 1 November and was also appointed Professor of Hygiene and Environmental Medicine for life. Prof Geffers was previously Deputy Director of the Institute and has played a key role in shaping hygiene surveillance and infection prevention at the Charité.
Prof Geffers has been dedicated to combating hospital-acquired infections since the beginning of her research career. These so-called nosocomial infections are often caused by pathogens that patients bring into hospital themselves – for example on the skin or mucous membranes. These organisms are not normally able to harm healthy people. However, if they enter organs such as the bladder, lungs or bloodstream during medical treatment, they can cause serious infections.
Surveillance as a warning system for infections
It is precisely these hospital infections that Prof Geffers wants to combat – with a surveillance system, among other things. Surveillance in this case refers to the continuous, systematic recording, analysis and interpretation of infection rates. The frequency of infection among the hospital’s own patients is compared with average data. If there are any anomalies, the reasons for this are sought – and measures are taken to counteract them.
Together with her predecessor, Prof Dr Petra Gastmeier, and her team, Prof Geffers has further expanded the KISS hospital infection surveillance system developed at Charité. The system was originally established by Prof Gastmeier, who has received numerous awards for her commitment in this area. More than 1,000 hospitals across Germany are currently participating in the surveillance system – with success: “We were able to show that the risk of nosocomial infections in the participating medical facilities decreases during surveillance,” reports Prof Geffers.
Finding effective measures against infections
Christine Geffers is also investigating the greatest risk factors for hospital-acquired infections and the most effective measures to prevent them. She was able to show that catheters – for example in the vein – are a decisive risk factor for infections. Prevention can then focus on these risk factors.
But which prevention measures are really effective? The studies by Prof Geffers and the team at the Institute of Hygiene also provide answers here: for example, they were able to prove that various cleaning and disinfection methods or the use of daily antiseptic body washes can prevent infections in intensive care patients. “The findings from these studies are already being successfully implemented at Charité,” emphasises Prof. Geffers.
New tools to recognise and prevent outbreaks
If an outbreak of pathogens does occur, action must be taken immediately. Another focus of Prof Geffers’ research is therefore on the development of instruments that can be used to detect outbreaks at an early stage. “We have developed a digital instrument for this purpose, which is now being used successfully at several clinics in Germany,” explains Prof Geffers.
In addition to her research activities, Christine Geffers and her team advise hospitals on infection prevention and how to deal with multi-resistant pathogens. The Institute’s hygiene guidelines form the basis of infection prevention at the Charité. Infection prevention also includes practical training, which Prof Geffers would like to establish even more in future: everyday situations on a ward are simulated using simulators and the processes are then evaluated in the team.
Digitalisation can support the clinic and teaching
In the coming years, Prof. Geffers wants to focus even more on digitalisation. She is currently developing an infectiological quality indicator that can identify infections in an automated process using an algorithm. In another research project, she is planning to analyse bacterial pathogens for their relationship based on the building blocks in the genetic code. This will provide insights into the spread of pathogens.
Digitalisation is also close to her heart when it comes to teaching: “The digital teaching formats during the pandemic have shown that some of the newly developed e-learning courses have been very well received by students and lecturers. These experiences are an opportunity that we should definitely seize on to integrate innovative formats for teaching,” says Prof Geffers.
Short CV of Prof Christine Geffers
Prof Dr Christine Geffers, born in January 1965 in Braunschweig, studied medicine at the Free University of Berlin and is a specialist in hygiene and environmental medicine. She completed her doctorate in 2001 with the top grade “summa cum laude”. She has worked at the Institute of Hygiene and Environmental Medicine at Charité as a senior consultant since 2008. In July 2015, she completed her habilitation in hygiene and environmental medicine with the topic “NEO-KISS – Surveillance and Epidemiology of Nosocomial Infections in Premature Infants in Germany” at the Charité. Prof. Geffers is the coordinator of the National Reference Centre for Surveillance of Nosocomial Infections at the Charité. She is also involved in the German Sepsis Society.