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Epidemic Clostridium difficile

Thomas V Riley
Med J Aust 2006; 185 (3): 133-134.
Published online: 7 August 2006

We need to know if and when this organism arrives in Australia

There is world-wide concern about a new infectious diseases threat following the recent emergence, in Canada,1 the United States,2 and now Europe,3 of a highly virulent strain of Clostridium difficile (called PCR ribotype 027 in Europe and NAP1 in the US). Rates of detection of C. difficile have risen dramatically: at the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Sherbrooke in Quebec Province (population, 7.5 million in 2003) in Canada, the incidence among patients aged ≥ 65 years increased from 102 per 100 000 population in 1991 to 867 per 100 000 in 2003.4 C. difficile disease has been more severe, with the proportion of complicated cases in Sherbrooke increasing from 7.1% (12/169) in 1991–92 to 18.2% (71/390) in 2003,4 suggesting a more virulent strain of the organism is emerging. The Quebec Health Ministry reported a total of 7004 cases of C. difficile infection between 1 April 2003 and 31 March 2004, with 1270 deaths (a crude mortality rate of 18%).5 Loo and colleagues1 reported an attributable mortality of greater than 10% in those aged over 60 years — a remarkably high figure.

  • Thomas V Riley

  • Microbiology and Immunology, University of Western Australia, Perth, WA.

Correspondence: triley@cyllene.uwa.edu.au

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