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Quebec research team unmasks hypervirulent C. difficile strain

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Published: 5 Dec 2005

A team of researchers from 12 Quebec hospitals has completed the first comprehensive study of Clostridium difficile outbreaks that have occurred in the province since 2003.

A team of researchers from 12 Quebec hospitals (MUHC-Royal Victoria Hospital, MUHC-Montreal General Hospital, Hôpital Maisonneuve-Rosemont, Jewish General Hospital, St. Mary's Hospital, Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Sherbrooke-Fleurimont, Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Sherbrooke-Hotel Dieu, CHUM-St. Luc, Cité de la Santé de Laval, Hôpital Charles LeMoyne, Hôpital Jean Talon and Réseau Santé Richelieu Yamaska) has completed the first comprehensive study of Clostridium difficile outbreaks that have occurred in the province since 2003. This report will be published in the December 8, 2005, issue of the New England Journal of Medicine but had an early release yesterday.

"In March 2003, several Quebec hospitals noted a marked increase in the incidence of Clostridium difficile," says Dr. Vivian Loo, Chief of Microbiology at the MUHC and the study's principal investigator. "It became clear that we were all suffering similar outbreaks and we decided to pool our resources and expertise to determine the extent of the problem, identify this strain and work towards improved prevention methods and treatments."

This study reports the magnitude of this outbreak and incidence of severe disease. In addition, researchers used DNA fingerprinting by pulsed field gel electrophoresis to identify the Quebec predominant strain, which is similar to an epidemic strain that struck in the US, UK and Belgium. The research states that this new strain was responsible for over 80% of cases studied in Quebec, and suggests that the use of antibiotics in the hospitals assisted in the rapid spread of the bacteria. The researchers identified two factors that may potentially explain why this particular strain of Clostridium difficile was able to result in severe disease among patients.

This research highlights the leading role that Quebec-based scientists are playing in international Clostridium difficile research. The collaborative efforts and complementary expertise among clinicians and basic scientists in the different hospitals and Quebec universities were instrumental in furthering the knowledge of this important health problem.

The McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) is a comprehensive academic health institution with an international reputation for excellence in clinical programs, research and teaching. The MUHC is a merger of five teaching hospitals affiliated with the Faculty of Medicine at McGill University — the Montreal Children's, Montreal General, Royal Victoria, and Montreal Neurological Hospitals, as well as the Montreal Chest Institute.

Building on the tradition of medical leadership of the founding hospitals, the goal of the MUHC is to provide patient care based on the most advanced knowledge in the health care field, and to contribute to the development of new knowledge.

For more information please contact:
Ian Popple or Seeta Ramdass
MUHC Public Relations and Communications
Tel.: 514-843-1560

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