A "milestone" has been reached in Scotland with the approval of a drug to treat Clostridium difficile (C diff) in restricted cases.
Fidaxomicin, or Dificlir, is the first new antibiotic that has been accepted by the Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC) to tackle the potentially fatal hospital-acquired infection since the 1950s.
It will be restricted to the treatment of adults who develop a second bout of C diff and will be provided on the advice of local microbiologists or specialists in infectious diseases.
It took scientists between eight and ten years to develop the drug.
Professor Robert Masterton, director of the Institute of Healthcare Associated Infection at the University of the West of Scotland, said: "This is the first major step forward in the treatment of C diff for ten years. This is excellent news for patients in Scotland. Although there has been much improvement in the management of C diff in Scotland in recent years, it is still a major cause of hospital-acquired infection.
"The approval of fidaxomicin represents a notable milestone in combating the still significant impact and spread of this disease."
The bug, spread by poor personal hygiene, mostly afflicts people with weakened immune systems and is a significant problem in hospitals and nursing homes.
The new drug, fidaxomicin, works as well against C diff as the "gold standard" treatment vancomycin, a study of the drug found. But compared with vancomycin, it more than halved the rate of recurrent infection from 26.9% to 12.7%.
There were 334 C diff cases in Scotland in the first three months of this year, down 6.2% from 356 at the same time last year.
The SMC said the drug was approved as it was considered value for money for patients. The consortium said the drug could not be deployed in first-line use in adults with severe cases of C diff as the company did not present a "sufficiently robust economic analysis to gain acceptance".