A TOP UK infection control expert is expected to report shortly on the circumstances of an increase in cases of the superbug Clostridium Difficile at Gwent hospitals.

In the year to March 31, there was a nine per cent increase in cases of C Difficile acquired in the area’s hospitals, following several years of significant reductions.

Aneurin Bevan University Health Board has carried out an internal review into the issue, but also commissioned renowned medical microbiologist Professor Brian Duerden to carry out an independent analysis.

The nine per cent increase pushed the number of healthcare-associated C Difficile cases in Gwent during 2013/14 to around 240, but the major problem occurred last spring and summer, when there was a short term year-on-year increase in cases of 48 per cent. Since then, the situation has improved to the extent that 2014-only figures, particularly those for February, March and April, are among the lowest recorded by the board.

But the board is keen to learn whatever lessons it can from last year’s increase, to maximise the opportunities to drive down cases once more.

C Difficile is a bacterial infection that can affect the digestive system, and which can be life threatening in some cases. It can survive for weeks and months on surfaces.

It does not usually affect healthy people, but most commonly, problems occur in those who have had or are undergoing treatment with antibiotics, which can disrupt the natural balance of normal bacteria in the gut that would otherwise protect against C Difficile.

Regulated use of certain types of antibiotic is a weapon in the battle to minimise C Difficile cases, but robust hygiene and cleaning practices are also vital.

The use of hydrogen peroxide vapour (HPV) deep cleaning in hospital wards, including in Gwent, is now also a common infection control practice.

Great strides have been made in the past few years in reducing healthcare associated C Difficile cases, and infection control experts in Gwent have helped lead the way, but the battle is a constant one.

Professor Duerden has submitted a draft report to the health board, and his formal final report is imminent.