Two bacterial strains that have plagued hospitals around the country may have been at least partly fueled by a sugar additive in our food products, scientists say. Trehalose, a sugar that is added to a wide range of food products, could have allowed certain strains of Clostridium difficile to become far more virulent than they were before, a new study finds.
The results, described in the journal Nature, highlight the unintended consequences of introducing otherwise harmless additives to the food supply.
C. difficile is a nasty bacterium — infection can result in severe diarrhea and death — and numbers among the most prevalent hospital-acquired infections in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly half a million people were sickened by the bug in 2011. Some 29,000 of those patients died within 30 days of being diagnosed with C. difficile, and about 15,000 of those deaths were directly linked to the infection.