News from Demuris

Newcastle leads global fight on superbugs

16 October 2008, The Journal

Scientists at Newcastle University's £18m Centre for Bacterial Cell Biology will attempt to discover how bacteria develop resistance to current antibiotics. Professor Jeff Errington, who will lead the department, said it was crucial that research continued in an effort to prevent a strain causing a pandemic.

It is hoped research will help develop new ways of controlling infectious diseases, including superbugs MRSA and C difficile, by providing new information on how bacteria work. It will also concentrate on developing new kinds of antibiotics to combat bacterial strains which are becoming resistant to current treatments.

MRSA, a bacterium spread by contact, can be passed on by someone who has it on their hands, although it can be easily killed using hand gels available in hospital wards. However, bacteria evolve into different strains which can become resistant to antibiotic treatment.

Researchers at the university will study bacteria and how human cells work. It is hoped this will lead to new types of antibiotics to match the evolving state of bacteria. Prof Errington said: "There isn't really anywhere else in the world of its kind. We will be able to understand the cells themselves and how they work. If you want to develop new antibiotics, then we really must do. It's absolutely crucial. The more you use antibiotics, you have to keep one step ahead."

Work on the centre has now begun and it is expected to open in January 2010.

Prof Errington said: "These fundamental studies into bacteria help our understanding of many illnesses and we are already developing new treatments for conditions such as MRSA and C difficile. They occur very frequently in hospitals and care homes and there have been very good antibiotics dealing with them." "Of course, over the last couple of decades the bacteria are becoming increasingly resistant to antibiotics. It's starting to be a case that people are actually dying from these infections."

The university received £6m for the new building from the Wellcome Trust in recognition of the internationally-competitive research facilities.

Tony Field, of awareness group MRSA Support, said: "The research should confirm that what we are saying is that we should learn to not antagonise the bacteria and to prevent people from getting it.""We really need instant measures to be put into place to prevent the spread of the bacteria through the nose and throat as much as the hands."...

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