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Aston to bring ‘Insight’ into ‘superbug’ battle

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A collaboration between Aston University’s Life and Health Sciences and healthcare company Insight Health Limited is looking to tackle the serious problem of hospital ‘superbugs’.

The project – a Knowledge Transfer Partnership – aims to develop a commercial formulation of a cleaning product to be used in the elimination of hospital acquired infections, particularly Clostridium difficile.

Clostridium difficile is the most common hospital acquired infection and is contracted by approximately 50,000 patients annually, causing approximately 6,500 deaths. There is a clear social benefit in developing cleansing regimes that will contribute to reducing the level of infection, which in turn would reduce the mortality rate. The development of an effective cleaning regime will also block the route of transfer (or contamination) from one location to another - reducing the incidence of infection. There is evidence of patients being reluctant to go into hospital due to fear of infection, which has a significant social impact.

It has also been calculated that each infection costs approximately £4,000 to treat; making a reduction in infection rates have a significant financial impact on hospital trusts. In addition, the patients’ stay in hospital would be reduced which would minimise the potential for acquiring other infections and increase the overall throughput of patients due to improved bed availability. 

Set up in 2000 to specifically target hospital acquired infections, Insight Health’s aim is to develop further products that will reduce hospital acquired infections, targeting Clostridium difficile - an important major cause of death within the young and elderly in hospitals – as a priority.

“We already have the route to market and appropriate infrastructure but require a centre of expertise to drive novel product development in this area,” says Insight Health’s Managing Director, John Rawlinson. “The KTP will be the first stage in allowing us the creation of this capability, through the development of an extensive knowledge base of microbiological information.”

Drawing on the expertise of Aston Microbiologists Dr Tony Worthington, Dr Laura Wheeldon and Professor Peter Lambert; the partnership will allow the development of a new ‘germination solution’ to help eliminate C. difficile and allow swift transfer from drawing board to hospital implementation. In addition, Aston will provide access to appropriate laboratory facilities that will allow the safe development of the product and the capability of converting the results of laboratory scale trials into safe, commercially viable products. In the process of developing these innovative products, the company will be able to forge closer links with the healthcare and manufacturing sectors.

The microbiologists already have a wealth of research experience associated with the diagnosis and prevention of other hospital acquired infections, including MRSA, bacterial biofilms, catheter related sepsis and acinetobacter.

“This KTP collaboration not only allows the Microbiology team to develop innovative products for use within the healthcare setting which will hopefully contribute to reducing the C. difficile burden, but also to continue to undertake relevant research in line with Aston’s  strategy,” said Dr Tony Worthington

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