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Didier Pittet (born 20 March 1957 in Geneva, Switzerland) is as an infectious diseases expert and the director of the Infection Control Programme and WHO Collaborating Centre on Patient Safety, University Hospital of Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland. Since 2005, Pittet is also the External Lead of the World Health Organization (WHO) Global Patient Safety Challenge "Clean Care is Safer Care" and African Partnerships for Patient Safety.

Didier Robert Pittet
Director, Infection Control Programme, University Hospital of Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland
Assumed office
1 January 1992
External Lead, World Health Organization (WHO) Global Patient Safety Challenge "Clean Care is Safer Care" and African Partnerships for Patient Safety
Assumed office
1 September 2004
Personal details
Born 20 March 1957
Geneva, Switzerland
Nationality Swiss
Residence Geneva, Switzerland
Alma mater University of Geneva Faculty of Medicine
Profession Physician

In the 2007 New Year Honours List, Didier Pittet was awarded the Honorary Commander of the Order of the British Empire[1] (CBE) in recognition of his services related to the prevention of healthcare-associated infections in the UK.



Pittet graduated in 1976 from the Collège Calvin secondary school in Geneva, Switzerland. Following a Diploma in Tropical Medicine and Community Health at the University of Geneva Faculty of Medicine, he graduated as M.D. in 1983 from the same institution, and received a master's degree (MS) in Epidemiology and Public Health from the University of Iowa,[2][3] Iowa City, US, in 1992. Pittet began his career as an infectious diseases expert with a special interest in the intensive care setting and device-associated and yeast infections, but this rapidly expanded to include research in overall hospital epidemiology and infection prevention and control. In 1992, he was appointed as Director of the Infection Control Programme at the University Hospital of Geneva and named Professor of Medicine in 2000 by the University of Geneva Faculty of Medicine.

Academic and other posts (selected)Edit

Pittet is Visiting Professor, Division of Investigative Science and School of Medicine, Imperial College London, London, UK;[4] Honorary Professor, 1st Medical School of the Fu, Shanghai, China;[5] Honorary Professor, Faculty of Health and Social Sciences, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong, SAR, China.[6] Since 2002, Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy (ICAAC) Planning Committee member Since 2011, Co-Chair, 1st International Conference on Prevention and Infection Control (ICPIC)

Landmark researchEdit

Initial observation studies in Geneva by Pittet's team showed a low compliance with basic hand hygiene practices and a lack of awareness by healthcare workers that the main cause of cross-transmission of microorganisms is by hands.[7] Time constraint was identified as the major determinant for poor compliance.[8] The challenge was to facilitate hand hygiene for staff and to find an innovative idea to do so. Under Pittet's leadership, the team investigated concepts from the social sciences to help understand the determinants driving healthcare worker behaviour, which led to the creation of a multimodal strategy based on education, recognition of opportunities for hand hygiene, and feedback on performance where the key component was the introduction of alcohol-based hand rub at the point of care to replace handwashing at the sink ("system change"), thus bypassing the time constraint of the latter method.[9]

"The Geneva Hand Hygiene Model": a breakthrough interventionEdit

The first multimodal intervention ran from 1995 to 2000 at the University of Geneva Hospitals with a spectacular decrease of almost 50% in hospital-associated infections and methicillin-resistant ''Staphylococcus aureus'' transmission in parallel with a sustained improvement in compliance with hand hygiene. The methodology and results were published in The Lancet in 2000 and the strategy became known in as "The Geneva Hand Hygiene Model".[9] During 1995–1997, Pittet had applied the same multimodal concept to a prevention strategy targeted at vascular access care and showed that it can decrease these infections and substantially impact on the overall incidence of all intensive care unit-acquired infections.[10] Similarly, interventions to reduce urinary tract infections were successfully applied.[11] Pittet's team also proved the cost-effectiveness of their interventions and long-term sustainability.[12][13] Pittet's vision is that to advance infection prevention and control strategies, it is essential to seek insight and innovation through other specialty fields, such as anthropology or sociology, or even engineering, computer science, mathematical modelling, and systems thinking.

Going globalEdit

In 2004, Pittet was approached by the WHO World Alliance of Patient Safety to lead the First Global Patient Safety Challenge under the banner "Clean Care is Safer Care".[14][15][16] The mandate was to galvanise global commitment to tackle health-care associated infection, which had been identified as a significant area of risk for patients in all United Nations Member States.[17] Hand hygiene was to be the cornerstone of the Challenge. As co-author of the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Guidelines for Hand Hygiene,[18] Pittet proposed that WHO Guidelines for Hand Hygiene in Health Care be developed under his leadership in consultation with other international experts. The final version of the Guidelines[19] was published in 2009. In 2008, the infection control programme of the University of Geneva Hospitals and Faculty of Medicine was designated as the first WHO Collaborating Centre for Patient Safety (Infection Control and Improving Practices) in Europe.

The "Geneva Hand Hygiene Model" was used as the basis for the recommended implementation strategy[20] for the global promotion of hand hygiene. As of December 2011, "Clean Care is Safer Care" has been endorsed by ministers of health in over 120 countries worldwide―representing a coverage of more than 90% of the world population. Forty-two countries/networks[21] have already started hand hygiene initiatives using the proposed strategy. Alcohol-based hand rub is promoted actively as the new standard of care, including in resource-poor countries.[22][23] Pittet's team developed the "Five Moments" concept to explain to healthcare workers the critical moments when hand hygiene must be carried out[24] and this model is currently used worldwide. Save Lives: Clean Your Hands is the Challenge's annual campaign with almost 15,000 hospitals registered from more than 150 countries at the end of December 2011.

Selected awards and honoursEdit

  • 1999: 1st Ignaz Philipp Semmelweis Research Prize (accomplishments in the field of hand hygiene)[25]
  • 1999: The Hygiene Prize[permanent dead link] 1999 - Rudolf Schülke Foundation (accomplishments in the field of infection control)
  • 2002: Society of Health Care Epidemiology of America (SHEA) Young Investigator Award in recognition of outstanding career contributions to infection control and healthcare epidemiology
  • 2003: The Lowbury Lecture,[26][27] Federation of Infection Societies Annual Conference (UK)
  • 2005: The Graham Ayliffe Lecture (Hospital Infection Society), UK
  • 2007: Honorary Commander of the Order of the British Empire[28] (CBE)
  • 2008: Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA) Lectureship
  • 2008: Forbes Fellow, Melbourne Infectious Diseases Group (Australia)
  • 2009: European Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (ESCMID) Award for Excellence in Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases[29]
  • 2009: Hsu-Li Distinguished Lectureship in Epidemiology, University of Iowa (USA)

Selected videosEdit

Main research interests, 1991–2011Edit

Between 1991 and 2011, Pittet and his collaborators made significant contributions to different research fields. Five key references have been selected for each of the following main research topics:

  • Infection prevention as a global priority
  • Infection and infection prevention in low- and middle-income economies
  • Noma – the disease of poverty
  • Epidemiology, surveillance, and international health
  • Hand hygiene in healthcare
  • Hand hygiene and Semmelweis
  • Hand hygiene – dynamics of hand colonization
  • Hand hygiene – alcohol-based handrubs as the universal gold standard
  • Hand hygiene guidelines
  • Hand hygiene education
  • Patients as partners in care
  • Multimodal interventions to reduce infections
  • Nosocomial bloodstream infection
  • Catheter-associated infections
  • Ventilator-associated pneumonia
  • Infections in the critically ill
  • Systemic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS), sepsis, severe sepsis and their cascades
  • Infections due to Candida spp
  • Epidemiology of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)
  • MRSA control
  • Paediatric infection control
  • Bone and foreign body infections
  • World Health Organization Clean Care is Safer Care and SaveLives: Cleanyourhands [access to references at:]
  • World Health Organization African Partnerships for Patient Safety [access to references at:]


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "[ARCHIVED CONTENT] Honorary Award Recipients Foreign & Commonwealth Office". Retrieved 2013-11-05. 
  2. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 30 November 2011. Retrieved 2012-01-12. 
  3. ^ "University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics". Retrieved 2013-11-05. 
  4. ^ "Infectious Diseases & Immunity News" (PDF). Retrieved 2013-11-05. 
  5. ^ "medical college". 27 July 2001. Archived from the original on 22 February 2012. Retrieved 10 February 2012. 
  6. ^ "Faculties, Schools & Departments - The Hong Kong Polytechnic University". Retrieved 2012-02-10. 
  7. ^ Pittet, D; Dharan, S; Touveneau, S; Sauvan, V; Perneger, TV (1999). "Bacterial contamination of the hands of hospital staff during routine patient care". Archives of Internal Medicine. 159 (8): 821–6. doi:10.1001/archinte.159.8.821. PMID 10219927. 
  8. ^ Pittet, D; Mourouga, P; Perneger, TV (1999). "Compliance with handwashing in a teaching hospital. Infection Control Program". Annals of Internal Medicine. 130 (2): 126–30. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-130-2-199901190-00006. PMID 10068358. 
  9. ^ a b Pittet, D; Hugonnet, S; Harbarth, S; Mourouga, P; Sauvan, V; Touveneau, S; Perneger, TV (2000). "Effectiveness of a hospital-wide programme to improve compliance with hand hygiene. Infection Control Programme". The Lancet. 356 (9238): 1307–12. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(00)02814-2. PMID 11073019. 
  10. ^ Eggimann, P; Harbarth, S; Constantin, MN; Touveneau, S; Chevrolet, JC; Pittet, D (2000). "Impact of a prevention strategy targeted at vascular-access care on incidence of infections acquired in intensive care". The Lancet. 355 (9218): 1864–8. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(00)02291-1. PMID 10866442. 
  11. ^ Stéphan, F; Sax, H; Wachsmuth, M; Hoffmeyer, P; Clergue, F; Pittet, D (2006). "Reduction of urinary tract infection and antibiotic use after surgery: A controlled, prospective, before-after intervention study". Clinical Infectious Diseases. 42 (11): 1544–51. doi:10.1086/503837. PMID 16652311. 
  12. ^ Pittet, D; Sax, H; Hugonnet, S; Harbarth, S (2004). "Cost implications of successful hand hygiene promotion". Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology. 25 (3): 264–6. doi:10.1086/502389. PMID 15061421. 
  13. ^ Eggimann, P; Hugonnet, S; Sax, H; Harbarth, S; Chevrolet, JC; Pittet, D (2005). "Long-term reduction of vascular access-associated bloodstream infection". Annals of Internal Medicine. 142 (10): 875–6. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-142-10-200505170-00025. PMID 15897546. 
  14. ^ "WHO | Clean Care is Safer Care". 2011-12-01. Retrieved 2012-02-10. 
  15. ^ Pittet, D; Donaldson, L (2005). "Clean Care is Safer Care: A worldwide priority". The Lancet. 366 (9493): 1246–7. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(05)67506-X. PMID 16214584. 
  16. ^ "WHO | Launch of the Global Patient Safety Challenge: Clean Care is Safer Care". 2005-10-13. Retrieved 2012-02-10. 
  17. ^ "WHO | Countries". 2011-10-05. Retrieved 2012-02-10. 
  18. ^ "CDC - Guidelines - Hand Hygiene". Retrieved 2012-02-10. 
  19. ^ "WHO : Patient Safety : WHO Guidelines on hand Hygiene in Health Care" (PDF). Retrieved 2013-11-05. 
  20. ^ "Save Lives : Clean Your Hands" (PDF). Retrieved 2013-11-05. 
  21. ^ "WHO | WHO CleanHandsNet - a network of campaigning countries". 2011-07-20. Retrieved 2012-02-10. 
  22. ^ Allegranzi, B; Sax, H; Bengaly, L; Richet, H; Minta, DK; Chraiti, MN; Sokona, FM; Gayet-Ageron, A; et al. (2010). "Successful implementation of the World Health Organization hand hygiene improvement strategy in a referral hospital in Mali, Africa". Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology. 31 (2): 133–41. doi:10.1086/649796. PMID 20017633. 
  23. ^ Nthumba, PM; Stepita-Poenaru, E; Poenaru, D; Bird, P; Allegranzi, B; Pittet, D; Harbarth, S (2010). "Cluster-randomized, crossover trial of the efficacy of plain soap and water versus alcohol-based rub for surgical hand preparation in a rural hospital in Kenya". The British journal of surgery. 97 (11): 1621–8. doi:10.1002/bjs.7213. PMID 20878941. 
  24. ^ Sax, H; Allegranzi, B; Uçkay, I; Larson, E; Boyce, J; Pittet, D (2007). "'My five moments for hand hygiene': A user-centred design approach to understand, train, monitor and report hand hygiene". The Journal of hospital infection. 67 (1): 9–21. doi:10.1016/j.jhin.2007.06.004. PMID 17719685. 
  25. ^ "DGKH : Sponsors of Research Prize" (PDF). Retrieved 2013-11-05. 
  26. ^ Ayliffe, G.A.J. (2007). "Professor Edward Joseph Lister Lowbury". Journal of Hospital Infection. 67 (3): 299–300. doi:10.1016/j.jhin.2007.09.004. 
  27. ^ Pittet, D. (2004). "The Lowbury lecture: Behaviour in infection control". Journal of Hospital Infection. 58 (1): 1–13. doi:10.1016/j.jhin.2004.06.002. PMID 15350707. 
  28. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 17 July 2014. Retrieved 5 November 2013. 
  29. ^ "Global scientific community meet in Europe to tackle infectious diseases" (PDF). Retrieved 2013-11-05. 
  30. ^ Search Results for author Pittet D on PubMed.


  • (in French) Thierry Crouzet, Le geste qui sauve, Éditions l'Âge d'homme, 2014, 172 pages (ISBN 978-2825144008).