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A sugar additive used in several foods could have helped spread a seriously dangerous superbug around the US, according to a 2018 study. ScienceAlert reports: The finger of blame is pointed squarely at the sugar trehalose, found in foods such as nutrition bars and chewing gum. If the findings are confirmed, it's a stark warning that even apparently harmless additives have the potential to cause health issues when introduced to our food supply. In this case, trehalose is being linked with the rise of two strains of the bacterium Clostridium difficile, capable of causing diarrhea, colitis, organ failure, and even death. The swift rise of the antibiotic-resistant bug has become a huge problem for hospitals in recent years, and the timing matches up with the arrival of trehalose. "In 2000, trehalose was approved as a food additive in the United States for a number of foods from sushi and vegetables to ice cream," said one of the researchers, Robert Britton from the Baylor College of Medicine in Texas, back in January 2018. "About three years later the reports of outbreaks with these lineages started to increase. Other factors may also contribute, but we think that trehalose is a key trigger." The C. difficile lineages Britton is referring to are RT027 and RT078. When the researchers analysed the genomes of these two strains, they found DNA sequences that enabled them to feed off low doses of trehalose sugar very efficiently. In fact, these particular bacteria need about 1,000 times less trehalose to live off than other varieties of C. difficile, thanks to their genetic make-up. [...] It's still not certain that trehalose has contributed to the rise of C. difficile, but the study results and the timing of its approval as an additive are pretty compelling. More research will now be needed to confirm the link. According to figures from the CDC, "C. difficile was responsible for half a million infections across the year and 29,000 deaths within the first 30 days of diagnosis," adds ScienceAlert. The findings were published in the journal Nature.