Study: Food supply possible source of C. diff infections

The hospital-acquired infection Clostridium difficile, which causes inflammation of the colon and can be deadly among elderly patients, may be spread outside the hospital setting via food, according to a study presented during the 27th European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases held in Vienna from April 22-25.

For the study, researchers examined lab results from stool samples taken from patients at 482 hospitals across Europe. The research team identified the ten most common C. diff strains found across all samples and conducted a DNA analysis of the samples to determine how widespread each strain was in each country and across countries.

The analysis revealed five C. diff strains were clustered within specific nations while five others were more widespread. Among the widespread strains, one was detected in parts of Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, The Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom, according to the report.

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"We know that [the] C. diff infection can spread within hospitals. If this was the only route of transmission, we would expect to see each type of the bacteria concentrated within one area," said Dr. David Eyre, a clinical lecturer at the University of Oxford, United Kingdom.

"We don't know much about how C. diff might be spread in the food chain, but this research suggests it may be very widespread. If that turns out to be the case, then we need to focus on some new preventative strategies such as vaccination in humans once this is possible, or we might need to look at our use of animal fertilizers on crops," Dr. Eyre added. "This study doesn't give us any definitive answers, but it does suggest other factors are at play in the spread of C. diff and more research is urgently needed to pin them down."

More articles on infection control: 
Study: Drug-resistant bloodstream infection risk increases when drug-resistant bacteria are found in stool, urine 
Infant infected with rare tick-borne illness is first case in Connecticut history: 7 things to know 
Top 10 infection control stories, April 17-21

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