Hospitals on alert after new killer superbug is indentified
HOSPITAL staff have been told to look out for patients showing signs of a new aggressive superbug, after the first case of its kind was confirmed in Scotland.
The patient has been diagnosed with robotype 244, a type of Clostridium difficile, after being treated in two different Scottish hospitals.
Health officials say they have now warned doctors the bug might become more prevalent in the UK. So far, this form of superbug is rarely found in Europe.
However there has recently been a surge in the potentially deadly superbug in other parts of the world, notably Australia.
The patient, who has not been named, is understood to be recovering and is expected to be discharged from hospital after being treated for the bug. Fourteen people have died from the illness in the Australian state of Victoria and public health experts believe robotype 244 might be to blame.
Dr Camilla Wiuff, healthcare scientist at Health Protection Scotland, said: “The strain has the ability to spread in the patient population. That is why we are giving the heads up, so the health service and hospitals know that it has come to the UK. We will keep a close eye on it and monitor it very closely,”
The bug is from the same family of infection which sparked a lethal outbreak at the Vale of Leven Hospital in West Dunbartonshire five years ago which claimed the lives of 18 patients.
The discovery comes as rates of Clostridium difficile, known as C diff, continue to fall in Scotland. Last year there were 1465 cases – 34 per cent fewer than in 2010.
C diff is a bacteria found in the gut which normally does not cause ill health. But when levels of the bacterium are able to grow, for instance when someone’s immune system is low or when they take antibiotics, it can make people unwell and in rare cases can be fatal.
It is highly contagious and is easily spread between humans through cross-infection. Symptoms include stomach discomfort, fever and inflammation of the abdominal membrane.
As C diff infections are usually caused by antibiotics most cases are found in healthcare environment such hospitals or care homes. Most cases in Scotland are found in people aged over-65.
Leading micro-biologist Professor Hugh Pennington said it would be impossible to wipe out the bug in our hospitals due to the way it exists.
He said the best way to combat superbugs, including the new strain of C diff found in the patient, was to ensure people in hospital regularly washed their hands.
Prof Pennington said: “It occurs in nature. It will always be an issue, but it will be less of an issue if we have very good hospital hygiene.”
Health Protection Scotland said the patient confirmed as having the bug became unwell after being transferred from one hospital in Scotland to another hospital in a different health board area.
The new strain of Clostridium difficile is known as ribotype 244.
Experts have already warned that it is a more virulent strain of the superbug.
DNA sequencing has shown similarities between the new strain and ribotype 027 – already found to be an aggressive form of the bacteria.
Some types of C.diff are particularly good at surviving, such as the 027 strain, but because they have been around for some time most strains are now better controlled in Scotland.
However any new strain is much harder to control because there has been less time to carry out tests.
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