Brussels, 16 Dec 2004
Leading international scientists gathered in London, UK, on 15 December to examine how research and development can be translated into clinical solutions in the fight against the hospital 'superbug' MRSA.
The UK's national audit office estimates that nationally, MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) kills up to 5,000 people per year. In addition, health-related infections are believed to cost the health services around 1.5 billion euro per year. MRSA has come to refer to any strain of the common Staphylococcus bacteria that has developed a resistance to one or more conventional antibiotics.
The conclusions reached by researchers at the Science Summit will influence the UK government's allocation of some 4.5 million euro of funding for research into healthcare associated infection. Scientists from the Netherlands and Canada joined colleagues from the UK to discuss new approaches to diagnosis and examine the science behind transmission.
UK Health Secretary John Reid addressed the gathering of scientists: 'I've said before that I will leave no stone unturned in the battle against the superbug. [...] If we are to effectively combat MRSA, it's not only a question of cleanliness - science can also help in the battle against this ever-mutating superbug.'
He continued: 'Scientific research is vitally important in this area but it needs to be harnessed into practical applications to benefit patients through controlling and preventing infection.'
Meanwhile, one UK scientist unveiled what could prove to be a vital tool for the effective control of MRSA. Peter Hawkey from Birmingham Heartlands Hospital has developed a diagnostic test that can identify the bacteria in just two hours, compared with the current two days using existing screening methods.
Not only can the new test identify a particular strain of MRSA, it can also provide doctors with a detailed analysis of its genetic structure, making it easier to track down the source of the infection.
The test has so far only been evaluated in the laboratory, and further hospital-based trials are due to begin in 2005. On the basis of these results, health executives will decide whether the tests should be widely introduced.
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