A test to predict which patients are most at risk from the Clostridium difficile (C. diff) infection has been developed.
The "accurate and simple" test could benefit patients, hospitals and health services around the world, scientists and doctors in Devon have said.
C. diff is a bacterial infection of the digestive system.
In 2011, there were about 2,000 C. diff-related deaths, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
The research was carried out by the University of Exeter and the Royal Devon and Exeter (RD&E) NHS Foundation Trust, with the National Institute for Health Research in the South West.
In a paper published by BMC Infectious Diseases it said growing concern about the number of C. diff strains resistant to drug therapies meant the findings were exciting.
Dr Steve Michell, senior lecturer in molecular microbiology at the University of Exeter, said: "They identify a simple, accurate and robust method to identify those patients who are at risk of dying from a C. diff infection."
The benefits to patients and potential savings to the NHS and other health services "would be immense", he added.
The test's "comparative simplicity" means it could be used by non-specialists within 48 hours of diagnosis, allowing earlier treatment.
Dr Ray Sheridan, consultant physician at the RD&E, said: "This really simple and quick tool, which any junior doctor could use in the middle of the night, quickly and easily flags up those who need a speedy and intensive treatment regime or more senior help.
"The quicker we get on with the right treatment for the right patient the better their chances of recovery are."