Report of the rising rates of infection with C.difficile among the general public has led to concerns regarding the mutation of the microorganism into a more virulent form. It was previously thought that the infection could only manifest in individuals with resistance to antibiotics.
The high incidence of the infection even among non-hospitalized patients has created much panic among the scientific community. "That is really a remarkably high increase in cases. "I think this needs verification in another database, to tell you the truth. And it may be that it's true. And it may be that there's something going on, " said Dr. Dale Gerding, a leading U.S. expert in the field.
The researchers examined a large database for identification of C. difficile infected cases in Britain. Surprisingly, the individuals identified did not have a positive history of hospital admission the previous year. The results of the present study have been presented in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Infection with the microorganism is most commonly hospital acquired with a majority of the cases occurring within health-care facilities. High rates of antibiotic usage and the difficulty to eradicate the sporocytic form of C. difficile are some of the factors believed to account for the high rates of infection in hospitals.
The consumption of antibiotics destroys the natural bacterial flora present in the intestine, and enhances the susceptibility to the infection. C.difficile now happily grows and thrives in an otherwise hostile environment leading to symptoms such as severe diarrhea, abdominal pain, and fever.
An alarming rate of the infection incidence in Britain from 1 to 22 cases per 100, 000 has been found during the 10-year period (1994- 2004). Out of this, only 37% of the infected individuals had taken antibiotics prior to the infection episode.
In addition it was found that those taking Nexium (proton pump inhibitors, powerful antacid drugs) were three times more likely to contract the infection. Accidentally, it was found that patients on non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) also had an elevated risk.
The new potent strain of the bacterium is known for production of massive levels of toxic substances compared to the traditional ones. It has been held responsible for deadly outbreaks that have plagued hospitals in parts of Quebec over the few years. Appropriate techniques have to be taken to identify genetic changes within such potent forms even before permutation can occur.