Is Clostridium difficile a threat to Australia’s biosecurity?

Thomas V Riley
Med J Aust 2009; 190 (12): . || doi: 10.5694/j.1326-5377.2009.tb02630.x
Published online: 15 June 2009

Australia can benefit from lessons learned in the epidemic of C. difficile infection in Europe and North America

It is 30 years since Clostridium difficile was shown to be the cause of pseudomembranous colitis and many cases of antibiotic-associated diarrhoea in humans. In the interim, C. difficile has risen from relative obscurity to become a major hospital pathogen. Two factors were particularly important in its emergence during the 1980s. First, increased and inappropriate use of some broad-spectrum antibiotics, particularly cephalosporins, predisposed more patients to infection with C. difficile. Second, contamination of the hospital environment with C. difficile spores was, and remains, a significant problem, as the spore is likely to be the infective particle. The epidemiology of C. difficile infection continues to evolve, and developments overseas in the past decade threaten not only parts of Australia’s vast agricultural sector but also the country’s health care system.

  • Thomas V Riley

  • Microbiology and Immunology, University of Western Australia, and PathWest Laboratory Medicine (WA), Queen Elizabeth II Medical Centre, Perth, WA.


Competing interests:

I have received speaker fees, educational grants and travel assistance to attend scientific meetings from Bayer, bioMérieux, GlaxoSmithKline, Genzyme and Becton Dickinson.


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