Three hospital patients have died after contracting a new strain of the bacterial infection Clostridium difficile (C. diff).
Doctors in Scotland have been alerted to the strain, named ribotype 332, which has been reported for the first time by Health Protection Scotland (HPS).
HPS said two patients being cared for at the same hospital died - one in December and the second in January.
A third patient within the same health board area died last month. All were seriously ill with underlying conditions.
HPS did not disclose the hospital locations due to patient confidentiality.
A statement said: “All three cases were severely ill due to other underlying conditions and died following their episode of CDI (Clostridium difficile infection).
“HPS has alerted clinicians and laboratory staff throughout Scotland.
“The identification of a novel ribotype does not require any immediate changes to surveillance or in the antibiotics used to treat CDI.”
A CDI is a type of bacterial infection that can affect the digestive system. It most commonly affects people who are staying in hospital.
Symptoms include diarrhoea and abdominal cramps and it can also cause life-threatening complications such as severe swelling of the bowel.
HPS said new ribotypes have emerged “frequently” over the last decade.
A ribotype is the pattern of DNA fragments particular to a bacterial strain.
Ribotyping is the name given to the process of identifying this pattern which allows scientists to differentiate between different strains.
A Scottish government spokeswoman said: “Health Protection Scotland have active surveillance and infection control measures in place and are keeping us updated.
“Research shows that, although this is a new strain, there is no increased risk to patients or the public.
“Healthcare associated infections have reduced significantly over recent years, however this remains a key priority and staff, patients and visitors all have a role to play in making sure good standards of cleanliness and hand hygiene are maintained.”
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