Scientists have gained fresh insights into the prevention of the superbug Clostridium difficile (C. difficile) thanks to a new study.
C. difficile is found in the environment but is most common in hospitals. It can cause a serious hospital-acquired infection when antibiotics are used as they upset the balance of the normal gut flora, allowing it to grow and produce toxins.
The researchers looked at the spread of C. difficile in different countries, including Austria and Korea and found that the use of antibiotic increased the risk of outbreaks of the hypervirulent strain of C. difficile in the Netherlands.
They investigated the effects of antibiotics, antigens and other agents on the virulence and pathogenicity of C. difficile. The findings revealed some important information about the synthesis, processing and effects of different toxins.
They also identified a new gene sequence in the hypervirulent C. difficile 027 strain, which could be related to its increased virulence by affecting toxin binding.
Professor Ian Poxton, former Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Medical Microbiology said "this is an important approach that is hopefully much better than previously reported studies using commercially available yoghurt-like drinks, and certainly more palatable than 'faecal transplants'."
C. difficile is carried in the guts of 3pct of healthy humans but the rate of infection tends to be higher in hospitals patients and elderly in hospitals, being treated with antibiotics.
The bacteria produce spores when they encounter unfavourable conditions. Transmission of infection is through the ingestion of these spores, which can survive on surfaces and floors for years and are resistant to many disinfectants and antiseptics, including alcohol hand gel.
The findings are published in the Journal of Medical Microbiology.