Nasal gel to fight superbug MRSA

British scientists are well on the way to developing a new drug to fight the 'superbug' Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

MRSA is a problem in many hospitals around the world. It is a resistant form of the common bacterium Staphylococcus aureus which has acquired the ability to survive treatment with most antibiotics.

It is especially problematic in hospitals where patients with open wounds, invasive devices and weakened immune systems are at greater risk for infection than the general public.

The bacteria is easily transferred from patient to patient by hospital staff who do not follow proper sanitary procedures.

MRSA was first discovered in 1961 in the UK but it is now found worldwide and recent figures suggest that MRSA infections are now responsible for more deaths in the U.S. each year than AIDS.

The 'superbug' is able to survive on surfaces and fabrics, including curtains and clothing worn by care providers - in order to eliminate MRSA in areas where patients are recovering from invasive procedures, complete surface sanitation is necessary.

Testing patients for MRSA upon admission, isolating MRSA-positive patients, decolonization of MRSA-positive patients, and terminal cleaning of patients' rooms and all other clinical areas they occupy is the current practice protocol for hospital MRSA infections.

The British researchers are developing a drug which is in the form of a gel which is put in the nose.

Destiny Pharma, a privately owned biotechnology company says its experimental drug XF-73 destroyed virulent strains of MRSA in laboratory studies, without any signs of resistance developing.

They believe it could be effective in hospitals as the MRSA bacteria did not develop resistance to the drug, despite being exposed to it 55 times.

The drug operates differently to conventional antibiotics in that it interacts lethally with the bacteria's cell membrane, giving bugs less chance to develop pathways to escape its effect.

Phase I clinical trials, have been completed and the results presented to the European Congress on Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases; the company hopes it will be in use in hospitals by 2011.

According to official figures in the last quarter of 2007 there were more than 1,000 cases of MRSA in England alone.

Experts have expressed cautious optimism.

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