The news on superbugs gets worse following reports that a mutant strain of Clostridium difficile has been linked to the death of 17 patients at a Norfolk hospital.

A further 16 patients at James Paget University Hospital have been treated for the 027 strain, according to The Times.

The press has had its usual superbug field day, with the Daily Mail leading the way, branding it the most deadly outbreak to date. The paper claimed managers at the hospital could face legal action if poor hygiene is proved to be a factor in the spread of the 027 strain, which it reports as producing 20 times more toxins than common forms of the bug.

The Daily Express did not aim quite so high and it quoted the Health Protection Agency as stating the strain can produce only 10 times as many toxins as the normal strain.

The Guardian also took slight issue with numbers, reporting the killer strain as number 026, rather than 027.

The Sun quoted 'an insider' complaining that the wards at the James Paget hospital were 'filthy', but rival The Mirror reported 'experts' as saying they could not say if the victims contracted the bug inside the hospital. This has not stopped the widow of one of the C difficile victims threatening legal action according to the Guardian, Times, Sun and Telegraph.

It may be unfair to blame the press for confusion over superbug outbreaks. As the Mail reported estimates at the number of deaths per year from MRSA and C difficile vary from around 5,000 to more than 25,000.