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There are around 12,000 cases of Clostridium difficile infection (CDI) each year in the UK and during 1999 to 2007, deaths from CDI peaked at around 4,000 per year.

Coloured Transmission electron micrograph of Clostridium difficile bacterium forming an endospore (lower right, red oval). C. difficile, a Gram-positive anaerobic bacillus, exists in small numbers in the human gut. It can proliferate when intestinal resistance is low, producing a toxin that irritates the colon and causes diarrhoea. In severe cases this leads to pseudomembranous colitis (PMC), where mucus and dead cells build up in plaques on the walls of the colon.

Source  Dr Kari Lounatmaa / Science Photo Library