City scientists step-up fight against 'superbug'

October 22 2003

City scientists step-up fight against 'superbug'

RESEARCHERS in Birmingham have received �150,000 funding from Advantage West Midlands, to develop their research into MRSA, most commonly known as the 'hospital superbug'. MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) is a major source of infection both in the community and hospitals and is becoming increasingly difficult to treat due to the emergence of resistance to all current classes of antibiotic.

But academics at Aston University have developed a new molecular technique that allows them to quickly differentiate between different types of MRSA. The method can identify and genetically fingerprint the different strains isolated from local patients (it is also much quicker than current techniques as the new test takes a matter of hours rather than several days). The results of the new Aston tests can then be used to monitor the spread of MRSA amongst staff and patients in the community and hospitals.

Furthermore, this molecular typing of MRSA will enable the rapid identification of the strains which are resistant to multiple antibiotics. Researchers can then look at the incidences of the disease in the region, including common sources of infection, and implement infection control practices (for example hand washing with specialist antibacterial products and use of barrier creams), thereby reducing the incidences of MRSA in nursing homes, 'at risk' populations and disadvantaged groups.

The new molecular test developed at Aston also has long-term potential as it could be used in national MRSA genotyping tests, which would benefit even more people by reducing the cases of infection in the UK.

Dr Anthony Hilton, Lecturer in Microbiology at Aston, said: 'MRSA isn't just a hospital acquired infection and we want to raise awareness of this and look at ways we can prevent the spread of MRSA in the community. Those patients at particular risk include those who are disposed to illnesses such as diabetes, elderly nursing home residents and people on low incomes. The cost associated with MRSA infection is high to both the NHS, through ward closures and treatment of patients and the wider community through illness. There is therefore a very urgent need to understand exactly how MRSA is spreading in Birmingham, and what procedures we can put in place to stop it spreading. We are trying to achieve both these aims through our new research grant.'


For further information please call 0121 204 4549 or email: b.a.l.coombes@aston.ac.uk

Notes to editors:

Partners in the project include University Hospital Birmingham, Aston University, Birmingham University Department of Epidemiology, and South Birmingham Primary Care Trust. The funding will enable a community based cross-infection nurse to work in primary health care (for example doctor's surgeries) to help stop the spread of MRSA from patient to patient and patient to healthcare workers with specialist antiseptic products. The grant will also fund an analyst and the Aston molecular typing method of MRSA.

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