Alcohol gel won't kill hospital superbug

By Fiona Dillon

THE superbug clostridium difficile that can pose a serious threat to hospital patients is not killed by disinfectant alcohol gels.

New research shows that only one in three Irish adults have heard of the infection, even though it is two to four times more common in hospitals than the MRSA bug (Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus).

Clostridium difficile (C-difficile) is a serious illness – the bacteria produces toxins that cause inflammation of the colon, diarrhoea and in some cases death.


Research showed that there is a misunderstanding among the public that alcohol gels can kill the C-difficile spores on hands.

Alcohol gel disinfectant is widely used in hospitals and while it is excellent for the prevention of diseases, it does not kill C-difficile spores.

Patient groups are now urging people to wash their hands with soap and water to prevent the spread of the infection.

Figures show that up to 30pc of patients diagnosed with hospital acquired C-difficile infection die within 30 days.

Naomi Fitzgibbon, cancer information services manager at the Irish Cancer Society, said, "Clostridium difficile affects the most vulnerable members in society, as well as other groups whose immunity against infections may be compromised.

"We would urge patients who develop diarrhoea while in hospital to report this to a nurse or doctor."