Before microorganisms were discovered as vectors or causative agents of disease, hand hygiene was known to reduce the risk of disease transmission. Semmelweis noticed a dramatic decrease in mortality rates from childbed fever in the Vienna maternity ward after he had introduced hand scrubbing with chlorinated lime solutions before every physical examination. Nevertheless, it was only after recognition of Lister’s work on reduction of surgical site infections (SSIs) by means of disinfection that surgical hand antisepsis became internationally recognized. Soon after, Pasteur stated ”Instead of forcing ourselves to trying to kill microbes in wounds, would it not be more reasonable not to introduce them”; a statement that remains true. Despite this, SSI continues to be one of the most frequent types of nosocomial infection even though presurgical antiseptic treatment of the hands of surgical staff has become a globally accepted procedure.

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