The battle against killer superbugs begins in earnest

A new initiative in the battle against hospital infections caused by antibiotic-resistant superbugs will be led by the very doctor who first raised the alarm bells over the deadly germs.

It was Dr. Alistair Leanord, a consultant microbiologist at Monklands Hospital in Airdrie, who warned six years ago that the National Health Service (NHS) in Britain had lost the war against superbugs.

At the time he said that antibiotic-resistant germs were widespread in NHS hospitals.

Dr. Leanord is now leading a new fight against deadly hospital infections via the Scottish Infection Research Network (SIRN) based at Glasgow University.

The SIRN has been established with a £16.5 million grant from the Scottish Executive to develop new treatments and encourage research into how infections develop.

Dr. Leanord, is the unit's director and he says the SIRN aims to reduce the risk of hospital acquired infection for future generations which is critical to the well-being of the nation.

Dr. Leanord says the prevalence of infections such Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and Clostridium difficile (C Difficile) means the work is more important now than ever, as almost one in 10 patients at hospitals around the UK suffer healthcare acquired infections contracted during treatment.

The superbug MRSA in particular is a major cause for concern because it is resistant to the antibiotics used to fight infections and has become resistant to newer drugs; that in turn leads to infections such as pneumonia, septicaemia, and bone infections, that can kill before any effective drugs are found.

The superbug, C Difficile, is also elicting concern as it is able to remain dormant in the gut but then multiplies massively when antibiotics kill bacteria.

The C Difficile bacterium has been responsible for the deaths of several elderly people who suffered infection while receiving treatment for other conditions and it is the major cause of diarrhoea in hospitals.

The C Difficile bacterium is also a problem because it is not killed by alcohol hand gels used to prevent infection.

The SIRN network is comprised of groups from universities, the drugs industry and experts in the field and £175,000 has been earmarked for a study of infection rates at 200 intensive care units in 15 European countries.

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