1 October 2010
Australia faces an onslaught of antibiotic-resistant 'superbug' strains of Clostridium difficile unless surveillance and monitoring systems are quickly stepped up, an expert warned in the September issue of Healthcare Infection (2010; 15: 59-61).
Until this year, Australia had been protected by a combination of luck, relative geographical isolation and conservative policies regarding use of the antibiotic fluoroquinolone, said Professor Thomas V. Riley, a microbiologist and immunologist at the University of Western Australia.
However, an outbreak of a fluoroquinolone-resistant 'superbug' strain of C. difficile infection (CDI) had occurred in Australia in early 2010, he said. This strain has been responsible for outbreaks of bowel infection with high rates of illness and death in hospitals across North America and Europe. The superbug is both antibiotic-resistant and more toxic than other CDI strains.
At least 6 Victorian patients were diagnosed with the strain, which Professor Riley warned was "likely to spread unless surveillance and infection control measures are enhanced, and antibiotic stewardship reinforced".
Despite a 2008 recommendation for hospital surveillance programs to be set up, no states or territories had yet done so.
Nor had national data been collated or government funding provided for laboratories to identify C. difficile strains.
The situation was also unclear because of a lack of knowledge of whether community-acquired CDI was actually increasing overseas, or if the apparent rise was the result of better detection of cases.
"Unfortunately many laboratories servicing GPs often do not examine faecal samples for C. difficile unless asked because of the continuing misconception that CDI is a hospital problem only", Professor Riley said.
Last Reviewed: 01 October 2010