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Antibiotic overuse, not poor hygiene, blamed for C. diff outbreaks

Friday, January 27, 2017

A study published in The Lancet has concluded that overuse of antibiotics, rather than poor hygiene, led to the high profile increase in severe diarrhoea caused by C. difficile. 


            Petri dish culture plate showing Clostridium difficile bacterial colonies illuminated using long-wave UV irradiation. Image: CDC / Melissa Dankel
  ■ Image courtesy CDC / Melissa Dankel

The outbreak was stopped by substantially reducing use of ciprofloxacin and related antibiotics, rather than the programme of deep cleaning introduced in the NHS in 2007.

The inappropriate use and widespread over prescribing of fluoroquinolone antibiotics such as ciprofloxacin allowed C. difficile bugs that were resistant to the drug to thrive, because non-resistant bugs in the gut were killed off by the antibiotic, leaving the way clear for rapid growth of resistant C. difficile

Concerns about hospital "superbugs" which had become resistant to common antibiotics resulted in the announcement of a programme of "deep cleaning" and other infection control measures in the NHS in 2007.


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