Findings Show 'Superbug' Outbreak Fueled by Antibiotic Overuse
The overuse of antibiotics has fueled the rise of dangerous superbugs that are resistant to traditionally medications. According to a recent study, this is exactly what happened in British hospitals starting in 2006, when an especially virulent form of Clostridium difficile infected hundreds of patients.
Determining the Cause
In 2006, British media headlines focused on an apparent outbreak of a super gut bug in metropolitan hospitals. Commonly called C. difficile, this dangerous infection causes abdominal cramping and severe diarrhea. What makes the bug so dangerous, however, is its resistance to common antibiotic treatments.
After analyzing hospital data, Oxford University researchers concluded that widespread, inappropriate use of fluoroquinolone antibiotics fueled the outbreak by killing off competing, non-resistant bugs in the guts of patients and clearing the way for rapid growth of drug-resistant C. difficile.
Stopping the Spread
In response to the outbreak, British hospitals engaged in a high profile 'deep clean' in an attempt to eradicate the spread of C. difficile. While many people credited the efforts for the ensuing decline in transmissions, the Oxford researchers concluded the outbreaks were ultimately controlled by restricting the use of antibiotics.
What it Means for U.S. Hospitals
While it may have occurred across the ocean, the British C. difficile outbreak holds great lessons for other countries. In fact, this recent study may be especially important for U.S. hospitals, where fluoroquinolone prescribing remains unrestricted.
Since some people can carry the C. difficile in their guts without becoming sick, the risk of outbreaks can be especially high in environments where ciprofloxacin and related antibiotics are frequently administered. In turn, it's important for hospitals to take proactive steps to reduce the use of antibiotic medications and lower transmission rates through effective infection control measures.