New research suggests that antibiotic treatment could be asymptomatically inducing the transmission of the healthcare-acquired infection, C. difficile, contributing to the outbreaks that have recently been widely reported in hospitals and other settings. A team of scientists have successfully mirrored the infection cycle of C. difficile by generating a 'mouse hospital' with conditions mimicking the human environment in which C. difficile is transmitted.
The results have implications for infection control measures in the healthcare environment and open the door for the development of treatments and improved diagnosis of C. difficile.
At present, healthcare professionals manage the threat of C. difficile by observing stringent hygiene and isolation practices primarily by dealing with patients who exhibit the symptoms of infection - including diarrhoea and fever. But today's publication suggests that widening the targets of infection control in hospitals, to include all patients receiving antibiotic treatment - although logistically complex - is worth investigating.
"C. difficile is a highly resistant and highly infectious pathogen and resistant to many front line antibiotics," explains Dr Trevor Lawley, Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute researcher and lead author on the study. "Until now, animal studies have focussed on the observable, acute symptoms of C. difficile. But, to understand how this highly infectious pathogen spreads, investigating the entire cycle of transmission is absolutely vital. We looked at mice carrying C. difficile and observed that they shed low levels of spores and, crucially, they did not infect other mice."
"But when we treated mice with antibiotics, we saw a dramatic rise in the levels of spores shed - leading to what we have described as a 'supershedder state' and transmission of C. difficile among mice. Importantly, transmission occurs even
|Contact: Don Powell|
Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute