Sunday, January 27, 2008

Scotland: Hospitals on alert as superbug "C diff" becomes resistant to key drug

Date: 27 January 2008
Source: Scotland On Sunday
Location: Scotland
Related Topics: Hospital superbugs
By Kate Foster Health Correspondent

THE battle against hospital superbugs has suffered a serious setback after scientists discovered one of the most deadly bacteria has developed resistance to the main antibiotic used to kill it. Recent tests on the stomach bug Clostridium difficile – 'C diff' – suggest a new strain has mutated which is more likely to survive treatment with metronidazole, currently the "front line" antibiotic.

That leaves only one antibiotic, vancomycin, available to treat the mutated superbug. Doctors are reluctant to increase use of vancomycin because that increases the risk of "C diff" becoming resistant to the last line of defence.

Health officials last night warned doctors to be vigilant for any signs that patients were not responding to treatment and could be infected with the new strain. Patients' groups described the development as "very disturbing" and called for urgent action to improve hygiene in hospitals.

The revelation is contained in a new report by public health officials at the Health Protection Agency Centre for Infections. Routine tests carried out on samples taken from C diff patients showed that a common strain of the superbug had survived, despite being treated with metronidazole.

Further tests suggest that" C diff" has fought back against the antibiotic and mutated to develop a resistance to the drug. This new strain is already thought to have spread between patients.

"C diff" is linked to poor cleanliness in hospital wards and has become a major concern across the UK. Last year there were over 6,000 cases in Scotland.

Read the rest of the report here.

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