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Antibiotic overuse may up superbug infections

London: People are more likely to get affected by superbugs due to over use of antibiotics rather than dirty hospitals, a study has found.

The study, led by researchers at the University of Oxford, showed that the widespread prescription of fluoroquinolone antibiotics such as ciprofloxacin was the reason behind a serious stomach bug Clostridium difficile (C. diff), that caused a diarrhoea outbreak in Britain in 2006.

In 2007, a programme of deep cleaning aimed at combating lack of hygiene in hospitals was announced by the National Health Services.

However, the cases of C. difficile fell only when fluoroquinolone use was restricted and used in a more targeted way as one part of many efforts to control the outbreak, the researchers said.

The restricted use of fluoroquinolones resulted in the disappearance in the vast majority of cases and lead to around an 80 per cent fall in the number of these infections.

“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 bugs that were resistant to fluoroquinolones went away,” said Derrick Crook, Professor at University of Oxford.

Meanwhile, the smaller number of cases caused by C. diff bugs not resistant to fluoroquinolone antibiotics remained the same.

Infection prevention and control measures such as better handwashing had no impact on the number of C.diff bugs transmitted between people in hospital, the researchers noted.

Ensuring antibiotics are used appropriately is the most important way to control the C. difficile superbug.

For the study, published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases, the team analysed data on the numbers of C. diff infections and amounts of antibiotics used in hospitals and by doctors in Britain.