Gel developed to tackle superbugs

Gel developed to tackle superbugs

Scientists at Queen's University have made a breakthrough in the fight against a hospital superbug which has been responsible for the deaths of four babies in Northern Ireland.

The team from the School of Pharmacy has developed an antibacterial gel which can break down the coating on bacteria which had been resistant to current therapies.Using natural proteins, the new treatment can tackle pseudomonas, staphylococci and E. coli.Dr Garry Laverty from Queen's said the new gel could provide an alternative to removing infected implants which can cause further pain and discomfort.He explained: "When bacteria attach to surfaces, including medical implants such as hip replacements and catheters, they produce a jelly-like substance called biofilm."This protective layer is almost impossible for current antibiotics to penetrate through."Therefore bacteria deep within this layer are resistant as they remain unexposed to the therapy."They grow and thrive on surfaces to cause infections that are very difficult to treat."The only option is often to remove the medical implant leading to further pain and discomfort for the patient. Our gel would prevent this."Dr Laverty added: "Our gel is unique as it targets and kills the most resistant forms of hospital superbugs. It is composed of the building blocks of natural proteins, called peptides - the same ingredients that form human tissue."These molecules are modified slightly in the laboratory to allow them to form gels that will rapidly kill bacteria."Four babies died from pseudomonas at two Northern Ireland hospitals between December 2011 and January 2012.In 2012, the deaths were investigated by the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA), which linked the bug to water from contaminated taps in hospital neonatal units.The treatment was developed as part of an international collaboration between the School of Pharmacy at Queen's and the School of Chemistry at Brandeis University, Waltham, USA and will be published in the journal Biomacromolecules next month.


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