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 11 August 2022

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News

Lethal hospital bug cases rocket

A new strain of C. difficile is difficult to eradicate from the ward, causing an excess number of cases, as well as more severe cases that make patients very ill, reports the BBC.

News image

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Clostridium difficile is not resistant to treatment, but some cases are difficult to treat.

The strain seen at Stoke Mandeville hospital in England is related to one which has emerged in the USA and Canada.

The number of cases of a potentially lethal hospital infection has rocketed since the 1990s, figures show.

The Department of Health has revealed there were 44,488 cases of C. difficile in over 65s in England last year.

The BBC News reports that this was the first time mandatory surveillance of the diarrhoea-causing infection has been undertaken.

In the early 1990s there were about 1,000 cases a year, but by 2003 the total rose to 35,536, England, Wales and Northern Ireland data showed.

However, this was only collected on a voluntary basis so the true figure may have been higher.

These latest statistics have showed that C.difficile is nearly 7 times more common than MRSA, although the superbug is more deadly.

C. difficile cannot be destroyed by hand gels, whereas MRSA can
BBC News

The Office for National Statistics data has showed C.difficile was the underlying cause of 934 deaths in 2003, a similar number linked to MRSA.

The Department of Health also released figures for the number of cases of GRE, a bug which can cause wound infections and occasionally blood poisoning.”

Although hard to treat it is not particularly virulent compared to other hospital infections, with just 620 cases.

Chief nursing officer Christine Beasley said some of the rise in infections was down to better reporting.

”This is largely due to the fact that medical care advances were keeping people alive for longer, making them more susceptible to bugs.

"The immune system does not work as well and, therefore, people are more vulnerable.”

C. difficile will now be included in the government programme to fight MRSA.

C. difficile usually affects the elderly, although young people have been affected.

This infection can prove fatal if antibiotic treatment fails to kill all the spores in the gut.

It is also very difficult to eradicate from the ward environment, which means it is easy for other patients to become infected.

The spores of C. difficile cannot be destroyed by hand gels, whereas MRSA can.

Experts have said staff must use soap and water to get rid of the bug.

The BBC also reports that hospital wards must be cleaned using more powerful disinfectants than usual to eradicate the bug.

Professor Mark Willcox is a consultant medical microbiologist who works on a C. difficile standards group that reported to the Department of Health.

Professor Willcox told the BBC "The most worrying concern is not so much how many cases we are having, but this new strain which appeared first in Canada about 2 or 3 years ago.”

"It appears to cause an excess number of cases when it occurs in a hospital, but the particularly worrisome thing is that it causes more severe cases - patients can be very ill with this strain."

BBC News 2005, 26 August, 09:29 GMT
29 August 2005

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