Cases of infections caught by patients in Italian hospitals are now running at up to 700,000 per year, says a report by lOspedale Spallanzani di Roma. The Infinos 2 survey is the largest study of its kind carried out in Italy, involving 40 hospitals over two years. The survey shows that up to 7,000 people are dying from these infections every year around the same number as are killed on the roads and puts the social cost of this epidemic at 100 million. It estimates that 30 per cent of all cases are preventable with basic hygiene practices (such as doctors washing hands between examining patients), and that up to 2,100 of deaths are avoidable. Doctors currently wash their hands after treating every five patients, says the survey. Time and place are also decisive factors: nearly 60 per cent of those in intensive care for over 10 days succumb to such infections.