Researchers have revealed how a common hospital pathogen turns into a deadly superbug, killing more and more patients worldwide.
A mutation in the Clostridium difficile causes potentially dangerous diarrhoea among indoor patients undergoing antibiotic therapy, according to Dena Lyras and Glen Carter from the Monash University School of Biomedical Sciences, who led the study.
C. difficile is able to colonise the colon when antibiotics have wiped out protective gut bugs, causing a range of bowel disease symptoms, from mild diarrhoea to more chronic forms, said Lyras.
“Not only are these strains extremely virulent, they are resistant to broad spectrum antibiotics, making them difficult to treat,” Lyras was quoted as saying by the journal Public Library of Science Pathogens.
These findings suggest that all C. difficile strains carrying a similar mutation have the inherent potential to increase toxin production and become hypervirulent, according to a Monash statement.
“Over the past decade, there has been an astonishing increase in C. difficile infections
throughout the world,” said Lyras.
Worryingly, the bacteria are also infecting people previously considered not at risk, including children and pregnant women.
“This study gives us a better understanding of these strains — how they develop, how they cause disease and why they are so harmful – so we can design new strategies to prevent, control and treat the rising rates of infection,” added Carter.