ANTIBIOTIC-DEPENDENCE in UK hospitals has been linked as a key factor in the substantial increase in infections in UK hospitals during a Clostridium difficile outbreak a decade ago.
New research has revealed that the over-prescribing of fluoroquinolone antibiotics allowed the drug resistant C. difficile to thrive and caused an epidemic in UK hospitals, rather than unsanitary hospitals. The bacterium, which can cause diarrhoea and other serious bowel problems, was able to survive and grow in the guts of patients while the antibiotics given to patients removed all other, non-resistant, bacteria.
In 2007, the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) launched a programme of ‘deep-cleaning’ and other infection control measures, such as improving hand-washing in the hospital. However, researchers report that the number of infections only began to fall when fluoroquinolone antibiotics were restricted and used in a more targeted approach.
The research team analysed data on the number of infection and the amount of antibiotics used in hospitals and by general practitioners across the country. The team also genetically analysed >4,000 bacterial samples to look for drug resistance.
The researchers found that a more measured use of fluoroquinolones led to around an 80% reduction in the number of infection across the UK. They saw that around 67% of bacteria samples taken from Oxfordshire were found to be resistant in September 2006, compared to around 3% in February 2013.
“Our study shows that the C. difficile epidemic was an unintended consequence of intensive use of an antibiotic class, fluoroquinolones, and control was achieved by specifically reducing use of this antibiotic class, because only the C. difficile bacteria that were resistant to fluoroquinolone went away,” commented one of the study paper’s authors, Prof Derrick Crook, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK. “These findings are of international importance because other regions such as North America, where fluoroquinolone prescribing remains unrestricted, still suffer from epidemic numbers of C. difficile infections.”
Jack Redden, Reporter