A SUGAR additive found in cream cakes, fruit juices and jams has fuelled the rise of a killer superbug, new research has found.

The study shows the sugar – known as trehalose – is metabolised by the potentially deadly bacterium Clostridium difficile. It suggests the common ingredient has helped trigger epidemics across the world.

Trehalose is also used in dried and frozen foods, nutrition bars, fruit fillings, instant noodles and rice and white chocolate.

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In recent years the UK, Europe and the US have seen a sharp increase in hyper-virulent strains that cause severe disease.

Symptoms include diarrhea, fever, loss of appetite, nausea and abdominal pain.

Professor Robert Britton, of Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, said: “Clostridium difficile disease has recently increased to become a dominant pathogen in North America and Europe, although little is known about what has driven this.”