Deaths linked to Clostridium difficile have risen by nearly three quarters, according to official figures published yesterday.
The Office for National Statistics said the proportion of death certificates mentioning the infectious diarrhoea rose by 72 per cent, from 3,757 in 2005 to 6,480 the following year. The number of deaths in which C. difficile was identified as the principal cause remained stable at about 55 per cent each year from 1999, however. The ONS said the increased mention of C. difficile on death certificates could be partly explained by fuller reporting.
C. difficile, which usually affects the elderly, ranges from mild diarrhoea to a potentially fatal infection, if antibiotic treatment fails to kill all the spores in the gut and they prove resistant to the body's internal bacteria. Acute cases can lead to ulceration or bleeding from the colon, and perforation of the intestine. Because it is very difficult to eradicate from wards, it spreads quickly.
The number of death certificates mentioning the meticillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus superbug (MRSA) remained stable at 1,652 in 2006 compared with 1,649 the previous year, after a steady rise in MRSA-related deaths over a decade.
Professor Brian Duerden, chief microbiologist at the Department of Health, said UK figures were now "in line with other developed countries".