A team from the University of Leeds, Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust and Oxford University, mapped all cases of Clostridium difficile (C.diff) in Oxfordshire over a three-year period (2008 to 2011).
C. diff causes severe diarrhoea, cramps and sometimes life-threatening complications, and has traditionally been thought to be transmitted within hospitals from other sick C.diff patients.
The research found that less than one in five cases of the so called 'hospital superbug' were likely to have been caught from other hospital cases of C.diff, where the focus of infection control measures has been.
By assessing the genetic variation between C.diff cases, the team identified those cases that were matched and were likely to be linked. By adding hospital records and the community movements of each case, they worked out if that transmission was likely to have happened as a result of hospital or patient contact.