Hospital superbug set to be squashed by new antibiotic
A NEW antibiotic to tackle one of the most common superbugs will be used in Scotland – the first of its kind for 60 years.
The drug, fidaxomicin, has been approved to treat Clostridium difficile (C diff). It is the first new antibiotic to tackle the potentially fatal hospital-acquired infection since the 1950s.
But it will be restricted to the treatment of adults who develop a second bout of C diff and will be provided on the advice of local microbiologists or specialists in infectious diseases.
Professor Robert Masterton, director of the Institute of Healthcare Associated Infection at the University of the West of Scotland, said: “This is the first major step forward in the treatment of C diff and is excellent news for patients in Scotland.
“Although there has been much improvement in management of C diff in Scotland in recent years, it is still a major cause of hospital-acquired infection.
“The approval of fidaxomicin represents a notable milestone in combating the still significant impact and spread of this disease.”
The bug, spread by poor personal hygiene, affects people with weakened immune systems and is a significant problem in hospitals and nursing homes.
The bacteria occurs in the gut and is thought to be present without symptoms in about a third of hospital patients.
When antibiotics are used to treat other conditions, the balance of C diff bacteria can be disturbed, causing it to multiply and produce toxins, which make people ill.
The superbug affects about 2,000 people in Scotland per year, according to Health Protection Scotland figures. In 2010 it contributed to 270 deaths in Scotland.
The new drug works as well against C diff as the current “gold standard” treatment vancomycin, a study found. But it more than halved the rate of recurrent infection from 26.9 per cent to 12.7 per cent.
Prof Masterton said: “Although C diff can affect anyone at any age, it is the over-65s who are most vulnerable to infection. With the increasing elderly population, the threat of further C diff outbreaks cannot be ignored.
“It poses a risk not only in hospitals, but in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.
“It is important that we employ all possible measures to contain this disease. Widespread and early access to the new antibiotic fidaxomicin will, I believe, make a real difference.
“By reducing reoccurrences, it improves survival. C diff has a death rate of 10 per cent. If you avoid a relapse, you avoid that risk.”
Scottish Government figures, out last week, showed cases of hospital bugs have dropped to their lowest levels in eight years.
There were 334 C diff cases in Scotland in the first three months of this year, down 6.2 per cent from 356 at the same time last year.
The Scottish Medicines Consortium, which approves drugs for use in Scotland, said the drug was approved as it was considered value for money for patients.
The consortium added that the drug could not be deployed in first-line use in adults with severe cases of C diff as it did not present a “sufficiently robust economic analysis to gain acceptance”.
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