Deadly bacterium could provide cure

11 Oct 2012

Bacteria which killed four babies in hospitals in Northern Ireland could be destroyed thanks to a scientific discovery.

Pseudomonas killed three children in January and another in December in Belfast and Londonderry.

But now academics from Queen's University Belfast believe they have made a breakthrough solution, using gas to reach niche areas like taps which were blamed for the outbreak. The technique could be used in hospitals within a year.

Professor Bill Graham, director of the university's Centre for Plasma Physics, said: "We think it could be quickly quite useful for these difficult environments, particularly within biofilms.

"The excitement for us was finding that it really could get in there and clear the bacteria."

Thousands of cases of pseudomonas are reported across the UK every year. The infection lives on the skin but can spread through medical equipment such as catheters and feeding tubes inserted into the body.

It is a relatively common hospital infection which does not usually cause illness in healthy people but can threaten vulnerable patients such as those in intensive care, those with depleted immune systems, severe burns victims and premature babies.

High levels of the bacteria have also been uncovered at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.

Copyright Press Association 2012

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