Superbug hits Canadian hospitals
June 6, 2004 - 10:30AM
Hospitals in two major Canadian cities have been hit by a superbug which has claimed more Canadian lives than SARS, according to the Canadian Medical Association Journal.
The bug - clostridium difficile - strikes at the colon, producing a toxin that can cause severe diarrhoea and fever, the Journal reports.
It usually infects people after they've taken antibiotics and in serious cases patients are forced to have their intestines removed.
The Journal says at least 79 people in Montreal and 10 in Calgary may have died after being infected by the bug. Patients in Montreal contracted the infection in 2003 or early 2004.
However, one medical expert disputed the Journal's figures.
Francoise Chagnon, head of professional services at the McGill University Health Centre, told CBC News that only 36 people had so far died from the bug, compared to 44 deaths due to SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) in Canada.
Nevertheless, another expert, Sandra Dial, an intensive care physician at the Montreal Chest Institute who helped compile the figures for the Canadian Medical Association, said: "It clearly is something worse than we've seen before.
"It's a new situation so I think patients should be made aware."
The CMA says the bacteria form spores that can survive on contaminated surfaces for days or weeks and are resistant to common disinfectants.
The CMA says the bug is spread through contaminated surfaces in hospitals or when healthcare workers unintentionally transmit it to patients.