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C. diff

Clostridium difficile antibiotic-resistant infections rapidly spreading in hospitals worldwide

Monday, April 08, 2013 by: J. D. Heyes
Tags: c. diff, superbug, infections

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(NaturalNews) Two closely related strains of clostridium difficile, better known as C. diff, have become resistant to antibiotics, allowing them to spread rapidly to hospitals around the world, according to a new study.

The researchers have also managed to show how the bacterium traveled from place to place, country to country, by forensically analyzing the strains' genetic code, the BBC reported.

The findings, which have been published in the journal Nature Genetics, also found that the strains of hospital infection tended to become more severe after they became resistant to bacteria-killing antibiotics, following a trend in the growing number of "superbugs" that can no longer be killed with a number of existing drugs.

Genetic code mutates rapidly

While not overtly lethal - C. diff kills about 14,000 people in the U.S. annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - infections are on the rise and will undoubtedly lead to a further increase in morbidity, experts have said.

"In recent years, C. difficile infections have become more frequent, more severe and more difficult to treat. Each year, tens of thousands of people in the United States get sick from C. difficile, including some otherwise healthy people who aren't hospitalized or taking antibiotics," says a description of the disease from the Mayo Clinic.

Hospitals have harbored C. diff bacteria, and the resultant infections caused by it, for decades. But concern grew in the early 2000s following large infectious outbreaks in the U.S., Europe and Canada. The increase was caused by a once-rare variant of C. diff, which has since become the most common cause of the infection in North America, researchers said.

Scientists have found that the genetic code comprising C. diff mutates very rapidly. "By comparing the genetic code of batches of C. difficile, researchers can work out how related different batches of C. difficile are," BBC reported.

The comparison was done on a large scale, involving 151 samples from infections in 19 countries. The comprehensive study enabled researchers to paint a picture of the antibiotic-resistant strains.

The comparison showed there was a strain called FQR1, which began in the U.S. and spread across the country before jumping to Switzerland and then South Korea.

A second strain, known as FQR2, began in Canada before spreading throughout North America, Europe, Australia and the United Kingdom.

"If we can understand how it happened there are lessons in that. It's a fact that two strains emerged which tells us this is more frequent than we realize and it is driven by antibiotic resistance," Dr. Trevor Lawley, from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, told the BBC.

"It also shows the global healthcare systems are completely interlinked - it showed up in the UK within months," he said.

Prof. Brendan Wren, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, who has been studying C. diff for 25 years, said the strains became stronger as they became more resistant.

Treat infections with - fecal matter?

"Once it became fluoroquinolone resistant, it just seemed to become more severe and transmissible," he told the BBC. "Not only is [the antibiotic] virtually useless against this organism, but resistance seem to have been a major factor in the continued evolution and persistence of these strains in hospitals and clinical settings."

Fortunately, the cost of sequencing the entire genome of a bacterium has fallen. That will make it much easier for future researchers to monitor the spread of diseases even as outbreaks are happening, to get a better understanding of the disease and how to stop it.

Recently, some doctors have begun treating C. diff infections in a rather unique fashion - fecal transplants.

The transplants come from healthy people to those who are infected with the extremely difficult condition to treat Clostridium difficile bacteria, which causes severe, watery diarrhea. Researchers in a recent study at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit found that 46 out of 49 patients got better within a week of the treatment.





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