22/02/2007

Hospital superbug deaths still on the increase

Deaths in hospitals because of superbugs are increasing, with deaths due to Clostridium difficile increasing more than those due to MRSA.

According to the latest figures from the Office of National Statistics, there were 3,807 death certificates, which mentioned Clostridium difficile in 2005 - an increase of 69% on the previous year.

In the same period, mentions of MRSA on death certificates increased by 39% to 1,629.

Most of the deaths involving both superbugs were in the older age groups.

Commenting on the figures, health minister Lord Hunt said: "We are now getting a far more accurate picture of the number of deaths from Clostridium difficile and MRSA with vastly improved recording.

"It is a major challenge for the NHS and a top priority for government.

"We have set very tough targets for trusts to reduce infections and put a hygiene code and a tougher inspection regime into law to drive up standards of hygiene and infection control.

"As a result we are now starting to see significant reductions in rates of MRSA infections."

Clostridium difficile is a spore forming bacterium which is present as one of the 'normal' bacteria in the gut of up to 3% of healthy adults.

Patients who have been treated with broad spectrum antibiotics are at greatest risk of Clostridium difficile associated disease.

Risks of contracting the bug are also increased for patients who are elderly, have a serious underlying illness that compromises their immune system, have a prolonged stay in healthcare settings, or have recently had gastrointestinal surgery.

(KMcA)

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