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TORONTO, ON – A major study of 12,000 samples from patients with C. difficile in four  hospitals in the United Kingdom (UK), published in respected medical journal The Lancet Infectious Diseases this week, suggests there are  benefits of rapid testing for the disease.  The study also points to the lack of accuracy of some of the existing testing procedures.

The UK study is “meaningful because its findings can help save lives here in Ontario,” says Michael Hurley, the president of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU) of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE). Each year between 600 and 1,000 patients die from C. difficile acquired while in hospital. In 2006 at the Joseph Brant Hospital in Burlington, Ontario, 91 patients died during a C. difficile outbreak.

The UK study – the largest of its kind – suggests that an emphasis on rapid and more accurate laboratory testing for C. difficile would identify patients with the disease more quickly and allow for their segregation in order to prevent infection outbreaks while expediting treatment. 

The research team found that patients with samples positive for the toxin associated with

C. difficile were twice as likely to die within 30 days and that the tests which detect the presence of the toxin are the most reliable indicators of who has the bug and who is most capable of transmitting the infection.

Through a number of key initiatives, including an ongoing program of deep cleaning hospitals and maintaining cleaning staffing levels, C. difficile cases at UK hospitals have decreased since their peak in 2007-08.

“Ontario hospitals have a significant problem with hospital acquired infections as a result of over-crowding and consistent cutbacks to hospital cleaning budgets. It would be responsible of the provincial government to invest in improving both the speed and accuracy of testing for C. difficile to contain outbreaks and reduce infection rates,” says Hurley.

The reference link to the research study is as follows:

The Lancet Infectious Diseases, 2013; DOI: 10.1016/S1473-3099(13)70200-7


For more information please contact:

Michael Hurley, President, Ontario Council of Hospital Unions/CUPE                     416-884-0770

Stella Yeadon, CUPE Communications                                                                     416-559-9300