RATES of the hospital infection Clostridium difficile (C.diff) have trebled in parts of Australia amid the arrival of a new strain which has just been found in Scotland, an expert has warned.

Professor Thomas Riley, a microbiologist at the University of Western Australia, said the country was heading for a "very dark time" as the new, nastier bacteria took hold.

Unpublished studies have shown the new strain, known as ribotype 244, is more likely to kill patients than other varieties, Professor Riley says.

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Experts in Scotland, who announced the first Scottish case of illness caused by 244 this week, have already noted it is from the same family as the 027 strain. Now better controlled, 027 was known to be more virulent and was behind the deadly C.diff outbreak at the Vale of Leven Hospital in Dunbartonshire in 2007-08.