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Today’s multi-resistant pathogens, which were created through inadequate and extensive use of antibiotics, are much more dangerous than child bed fever back at Semmelweis’ time. The Semmelweis Foundation contributes to increase awareness of hygiene in health care institutions and the reduction of infection rates – in order to save lives.

  • by connecting experts,
  • by increasing public awareness and
  • by creating political pressure through information and initiatives on various levels.

For us, sharing best practice and learning from each other are the most important elements of our activities. We want to encourage patients, health care professionals and political decision-makers to address the issue of hospital hygiene and infection prevention in order for the Semmelweis reflex not to happen again.

To achieve these goals, the Semmelweis Foundation organizes a biannual conference, which serves as a platform for stakeholders to exchange ideas and best practices. In addition to that, the Foundation’s website provides information on the topics of hospital hygiene, multi-resistant pathogens and antibiotic-resistance.


Physician Dr. Ignaz Philipp Semmelweis, (Hungarian: Semmelweis Ignác Fülöp) was born on 1 July 1818 in “Ofen” – (Buda) which is now known as Budapest. He died at the age of 47 on 13 August 1865 in Vienna in an insane asylum, into which he was lured and kept against his will.

When in 1846 he joined the first obstetrical clinic of the Vienna General Hospital, the leading hospital during the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, every 10th women died from child bed fever after delivering a baby – despite the increasing knowledge in medicine, in particular in pathology.  At times the maternal mortality rate reached 30 percent.

Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis identified missing hand disinfection of gynecologists and students after autopsy as cause for this terribly high infection rate. His publication (The Etiology, Concept and Prophylaxis of Child Bed Fever, 1861) is considered one of the most important ones in the entire medicine up to this day. He was ignored by his colleagues who accused him of “betrayal of his own profession” and mobbed into insanity.

The term “Semmelweis-Reflex“ was created by Robert Anton Wilson and is named after Semmelweis. It describes the reflex-like rejection of new knowledge because it contradicts entrenched norms, beliefs and paradigms.

Today’s multi-resistant pathogens are much more dangerous than child bed fever back at Semmelweis’ time. In November 2018 the ECDC reported 33,000 deaths directly attributed to hospital acquired infections with multi-resistant bacteria.

As a reference to Ignaz Semmelweis we hold our CEE-wide conference on hospital hygiene and infection prevention biannually in Vienna and Budapest, alternatingly.


The Semmelweis Foundation (Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis Gesellschaft), an open, independent non-profit organization was established and registered in 2012 in Vienna, Austria, by a group of engaged private individuals. It operates across borders across the entire Central Eastern European region in order to increase awareness about hospital hygiene and infection prevention in the expert community but also in the public in close cooperation with the WHO.

The Foundation is named after the famous Hungarian physician Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis, who recognized the lack of doctoral hand disinfection as the main reason for child bed fever. He achieved to stop endemic puerperal fever by introducing hand disinfection with chlorinated lime solution into clinical practice. Through his famous study of 1847/48 (published in 1961) he became the forefather of hand disinfection, modern antisepsis and evidence-based medicine.