As a result, more than 44,000 people over the age of 65 were infected in hospitals in 2004, killing 1748 of them.
The microorganism can cause diarrhoea, serious illness and death, with older patients being the most susceptible. It is resistant to heat, alcohol and stomach acids.
But a new study has discovered that outbreaks of C. difficile can also be caused by over-the-counter (OTC) antacids for reducing stomach acid. It was revealed that many C. difficile patients also regularly took antacids, and there appears to be a definite link between the two. The research team also noted an increase in the numbers of C. difficile cases being reported and treated by doctors, a phenomenon that has also been observed in the Canadian province of Quebec and in regions of the US (Daily Telegraph, 21 December 2005; JAMA, 2005; 294: 2989-95).