Quarter of people with new C diff have died
ONE in four patients in Scotland who contracted a recently discovered strain of Clostridium difficile has died, figures revealed last night.
The statistics, obtained by the Scottish Labour Party, suggest that the 078 strain of the superbug could be deadlier than other forms of the infection.
Experts cautioned that the number of cases involved was still small and extra data needed to be collected before more was known about 078.
Last month, it emerged that 16 cases of the strain had been reported in Scotland since 2007. In a written answer to Labour MSP Jackie Baillie, Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon revealed four of the patients died, with C difficile as a contributory factor in their deaths – 25 per cent of all the 078 cases. Previous figures have suggested an overall fatality rate for C difficile of about 9 per cent.
The figures led to calls for renewed efforts to tackle the infection, which affects thousands of patients a year in Scotland.
In an analysis following the deadly outbreak of C difficile at the Vale of Leven Hospital last year, in which 18 patients died, figures showed that the deaths of 285 people in Scotland were linked to the infection between December 2007 and May 2008.
Ms Baillie said: "The fact that one in four people who contracted the 078 strain of C difficile died is very disturbing. This appears to be a much higher fatality rate than normal.
"The emergence of new strains of C difficile shows there is absolutely no room for complacency in the fight against hospital infections."
Leading microbiologist Professor Hugh Pennington also urged more action to tackle infections following the figures.
"The numbers are on the small side, so it is hard to draw too many conclusions," he said. "But it is a nasty statistic by any standard and underlines the need to work as hard as we can to tackle this problem."
Prof Pennington said collecting statistics to calculate mortality rates for different strains of C difficile was difficult, due to the fact that not all cases were typed by labs.
He said that as the NHS struggled to control C difficile and other superbugs, gathering data needed to be improved.
"These figures remind us that the trend in C difficile is more nastier strains rather than those that are more benign," Prof Pennington said. A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: "This government takes every case of C difficile extremely seriously.
"That is why we have already put in place an action plan to ensure our hospitals are doing all they should to combat levels of infection.
"But we are not complacent and acknowledge that there is always more that can be done."
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