Published: 01/09/2005, Volume II5, No. 5971 Page 7

The first mandatory figures collected on the diarrhoea-causing infection Clostridium difficile show almost 45,000 cases occurred in 2004.

The figures suggest the infection is over six times more common than MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus).

Chief nursing officer Christine Beasley said the infection had been added to the mandatory surveillance system to establish the scale of the problem.

She said C. difficile would now be included in the government's programme to cut healthcare-associated infections.

Although some of the hygiene measures to prevent the infection are similar to those used for MRSA, C. difficile cannot be prevented with alcohol gels.

The DoH warned that the data was complex and needed to be interpreted carefully, pointing out that cases reported by an acute trust were not necessarily acquired there.

In a statement, the DoH said trusts' reports of C. difficile would include figures for samples sent to their labs from facilities in the community, such as primary care trust-run community hospitals and GPs.

It added: 'In the past, it was considered that C. difficile acquired in the community was an unusual event. Anecdotally, six trusts have reported that 18-30 per cent of their reports were not from patients in the acute trust. This requires further investigation.'

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