‘One in 12 patients who contract C diff infection will die’

A NEW virulent strain of the recently detected hospital acquired infection clostridium difficile (C diff) is fatal for one in 12 patients who contract it and is of huge concern for hospitals across the country, a consultant respiratory physician at a Dublin hospital told Dublin County Coroner’s Court yesterday.

The 027 strain of C diff, which has been “noted” in Irish hospitals in the past six months, is more toxic than other strains of the infection, consultant respiratory physician at St Michael’s Hospital in Dun Laoghaire, Dr Tim McDonnell, told the court.

“C diff is a particular problem as hand-washing is not effective in preventing it. You’ve got to be meticulously clean and it’s a huge focus in hospitals,” said Dr McDonnell.

Dr McDonnell said anyone is susceptible to the infection, including young, healthy individuals. He said that a number of years ago, one of his own registrars contracted the strain.

Dr McDonnell was giving evidence at Dublin County Coroner’s Court yesterday, which heard inquests into the deaths of five patients who contracted either MRSA or C diff while in hospital and who later died.

The deaths of two of the patients — Christopher Lawlor from Clondalkin and Sarah Leonard from Killiney — were directly related to MRSA infection, the court heard.

Consultant microbiologist at James Connolly Hospital in Blanchardstown, Dr Anne Gilleese, told the inquest that Mr Lawlor had picked up the MRSA infection while in ICU at James Connolly Hospital. He died on April 13 of MRSA pneumonia secondary to pulmonary obstructive disease and type-2 diabetes, having been readmitted to ICU.

Meanwhile, Sarah Leonard of Bayview Drive, Killiney, Co Dublin, died at St Colmcille’s Hospital, Loughlinstown, on February 7, from bronchiectasis with MRSA infection.

The coroner returned a verdict of hospital acquired infection in both cases.

Hospital manager at St Colmcille’s Hospital Tom Mernath told the court that HSE funding is to be made available to appoint a consultant microbiologist at the hospital.

He was responding to concerns raised by coroner Dr Kieran Geraghty that there is a far greater incidence of MRSA and C diff infections at the Loughlinstown hospital in comparison to other hospitals under his jurisdiction.

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