Controlling the spread of C difficile may require “extraordinary resources”, an expert has warned.

Dr Mark Miller said that was the level of resources that had been required to deal with outbreaks of the infection in Canada.

Dr Miller, an infection control expert from Canada, was speaking out ahead of a conference on healthcare acquired infections organised by the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh.

The event in Edinburgh comes a day after a preliminary hearing for the public inquiry into a C difficile outbreak at the Vale of Leven Hospital in Alexandria, West Dunbartonshire.

A total of 55 patients there were struck down by the bug between December 2007 and June 2008. C diff was blamed for nine deaths and was said to be a contributory factor in another nine.

Dr Miller, of the Jewish General Hospital and McGill University, Montreal, Canada, told how there had been “lethal epidemics” of the infection in Canada.

He said: “Extraordinary resources were required in each instance to control the epidemics and it is likely that similar interventions will be required in Scotland.

“Perhaps the most important message to convey is that C difficile epidemics can be controlled quickly by the vigorous application of wide-ranging infection prevention and control strategies.

“However, it is vital that healthcare teams do not view C difficile epidemics as requiring a one-time-only control strategy at the time of the outbreak.”