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Gene switch caused C diff rise

28th September 2009

Researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine have said the increase in Clostridium difficile infections is not related to how clean hospitals are.

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The team said the higher number of infections has been caused by the bacteria evolving into a stronger strain.

The researchers compared an older form of the bacteria with a sample from the C diff outbreak at Stoke Mandeville hospital in 2003.

They found that the new strain had the potential to multiply more effectively and produce more serious symptoms.

The outbreak at the hospital between 2003-2006 resulted in the deaths of 35 patients.

C diff bacteria exist in the digestive systems of 66% of babies and 3% of adults. It can cause a person to become unwell if the usual levels of bacteria are upset, for example when some antibiotics are used.

Health service trusts have been set the target of reducing C diff infections by 30% by 2010-11.

Study leader Professor Brendan Wren said the results would increase researchers' understanding about how the bug became so powerful.

"These strains came from nowhere and the sudden rise in C difficile was due to their spread. The bugs are fighting back and the one clear thing that comes out of this study is it is not down to cleaning but that the strain has evolved with new chunks of DNA."

"The deep clean programme was never going to work against this organism in the long term," he added.

 

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