A new superbug that can cause potentially fatal colon infections has been detected in Australia, according to an editorial in the latest Medical Journal of Australia.
The first case of an epidemic strain of Clostridium difficile
) thought to have been acquired in Australia has been identified at a hospital in Melbourne, and further clusters
have been reported in residential aged care facilities, Dr Rhonda Stuart of the Monash Medical Centre's Department of Infectious Diseases said.
infection can cause conditions ranging from mild diarrhoea to pseudomembranous colitis to toxic megacolon, and can be
fatal. It is the most common cause of hospital-acquired diarrhoea, and now
rivals methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MSRA) as the most common
health care-associated infection in the United States.
Since 2000, C. difficile
infection rates associated
with an epidemic strain (C. difficile
ribotype 027) have increased in
health care facilities in the US,
Canada and Europe.
This strain has an increased resistance to antibiotics, increased production of
toxins and spores, and causes more morbidity and mortality.
is now also in the grip of this new strain of C. difficile
," Dr Stuart
"It is sobering to contemplate that what has occurred in the
US, Canada and Europe
is potentially and imminently on our doorstep."
"We must learn from the experience of experts in these
countries so that Australia
can avoid a similar experience - we already have the benefit of their hindsight
to guide us."
In a related article, the Australasian Society for
Infectious Diseases has published its guidelines for the diagnosis and
treatment of C. difficile
They include stool tests for anyone who develops diarrhoea
after a course of antibiotics or while in hospital, and treating patients with
metronidazole in mild to moderate cases and vancomycin in more severe or
The most serious cases may require surgery, Associate
Professor Dr Allen Cheng of Monash
of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine said.
The Medical Journal of Australia
is a publication of
the Australian Medical Association.