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Friday, 30 December 2005 13:53
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
A tiny biosensor, created by scientists led by the University of Newcastle, will be able to detect cancer proteins and potentially the bug responsible for MRSA.

The technology will be incorporated into a hand-held device for quick analysis of tissue samples.

It is hoped the sensor will allow doctors to diagnose and monitor common types of cancer, and to work out the most appropriate therapy.

The vibrating disc is no bigger than a speck of dust and works by identifying cancer markers such as proteins or other molecules produced by cancer cells which vary according to the type of cancer and are distinct from proteins produced by healthy cells.

The disc is coated with special patterns of DNA which cause the cancer markers to bind to the surface. This binding makes the disc vibrate at a different frequency, which is then measured, allowing detection of the marker.

Lead researcher Professor Calum McNeil, said: "We are confident that this new technology has the potential to improve the prospects of successful treatment for these cancers.

"Early diagnosis and effective monitoring of cancers are known to be key factors influencing outcome.

"In addition, the technology could provide specialists with advice about the most appropriate therapy for a particular patient, since the devices could easily be connected to sources of information such as a hospital computer network, the internet or a mobile phone."

The device could also be developed to detect a range of other diseases and bacteria, opening up the possibility of screening patients for MRSA and other infections that can be carried into wards.

Dr Kat Arney, cancer information officer at Cancer Research UK, said: "Thanks to research we know more and more about the molecules that are faulty in cancer cells.

"Once the gyroscope technology is fully developed, these miniature machines could prove useful for spotting cancers at an early stage.

"It's important to work on new ways to diagnose cancer, as early detection is more likely to lead to successful treatment."

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Tuesday, 27 December 2005 11:40
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
Scottish scientists at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh have discovered that a kitchen sponge could hold the key to wiping out the deadly superbug MRSA.

The scientists are developing powerful anti-MRSA antibiotics produced by bacteria discovered on seaweed in Scotland.

But tests show the microbes only feel at home on the surface of a particular brand of kitchen sponge scourer.

Now researchers want to find the maker of the polyurethane scouring pad - on sale in 89p packs of eight at Morrisons supermarkets.

Brian Austin, a professor of microbiology at Heriot-Watt University, said: "We want to speak to the manufacturer to find out what's special about these sponges.

"Why won't the bacteria produce these antibiotics on any other supermarket sponges? It could be something subtle like how shiny the surface is.

"We're keen to take the study further as an antibiotic powerful enough to kill MRSA clearly has lots of potential”.

Prof Austin's team discovered the bacteria earlier this year growing on longstranded fucus seaweed in the Firth of Forth on the east coast of Scotland.

They found it produced a powerful chemical that ate away at the superbug. The researchers' trials showed the protein could even kill deadly food poisoning infection listeria.

They began cultivating the bacteria in glass containers of meat broth in the university laboratory.

But the microbes would only yield the special antibiotic when grown on discs of the Morrisons kitchen sponge - no other brand placed would work.

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Friday, 09 December 2005 09:11
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
British scientists at the Imperial College London, claim to have developed a chemical that kills Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA).

The scientists say it is a major breakthrough in the fight against the superbug. As well as destroying MRSA, the chemical, known as AQ+, can wipe out other hospital-acquired infections.

Dr Mark Enright, who led the scientists said: "The number of hospital-acquired infections is increasing.

"AQ+ could prove to be of tremendous importance in fighting hospital infections. It is extremely potent against MRSA and effective against other types of bacteria”.

The scientists now hope the AQ+ will be used in gels for hand washing in hospitals and to eradicate MRSA from patients and medical staff.

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Thursday, 17 November 2005 10:24
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
A consultant anaesthetist was struck off the medical register yesterday for taking active measures to end the life of a patient against his family's wishes.

The General Medical Council ruled that Ann David, an intensive care specialist at Basildon hospital, Essex, did not explore all options before taking "active measures" to "prematurely" end the life of Robert Symons.

Mr Symons was admitted to intensive care at Basildon hospital on 22 January, 1999, suffering from a severe infection, but his condition quickly deteriorated.

The panel found that on 16 February, Dr David formed the view that he should be taken off a ventilator because he had no chance of survival.

His wife Edna, 66, and son Gary said they were "strongly opposed" to treatment being withdrawn when informed of her plans.

However within hours Dr David had given Mr Symons a high-dose of sedatives and taken him off the ventilator. He died 20 minutes later.

After the hearing Mr Symons' widow Edna said: "I'm relieved with today's decision. I feel justice has been done and I think she (Dr David) has got what she deserved”.

Mrs Symons, from Basildon, Essex said her family had been through "sheer hell" while her husband was in Basildon Hospital.

Mrs Symons said: "Everything went wrong that could go wrong, he was only in there for a few weeks but during that time he caught pneumonia, MRSA and was covered in bed sores.

"Just before his death he said to me 'Edna I will never trust another doctor'. It was one of the last things he ever said to me. I said 'don't worry I will sort it out' that was my promise and I wanted to keep it”.

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Tuesday, 08 November 2005 11:01
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
Strathclyde University researchers have revealed that hospital superbugs could be wiped out within ten years by viruses that are harmless to humans.

A team led by DR Mike Mattey developed the technique for killing bugs without using antibiotics. Instead, they use bacteriophages – viruses that kill the bacteria – in normal cleaning products.

Bacteriophages are found in normal seawater and remain dormant until they come into contact with bacteria such as the MRSA bug.

They are known to be harmless to humans but will still be subject to a regulatory process that will mean it is three years before they are available for use on wards.

Dr Mattey, who was yesterday at a meeting of the Federation of Infection Societies in Cardiff to promote the system, told The Scotsman: "With this strategy, we can resolve all these antibiotic-resistant bacteria problems. We cannot cure it completely, but we can control it."

Antibiotics can be ineffective at killing hospital bugs because bacteria reproduce at such a rate that resistant strains quickly develop.

However, there are a similar number of bacteriophages as there are bacteria and these can be used in cases where the bacteria are known to be resistant to antibiotics.

Dr Mattey said: "General cleaning remains crucial in tackling infection but selective targeting of particularly problematic bacteria such as MRSA is needed as well.

"Our model demonstrates that this could be achieved cost-effectively by incorporating modified bacteriophages into day-to-day cleaning materials."

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Monday, 07 November 2005 08:57
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
A Patients Association (PA) report which will be out tomorrow claims that ministers are still failing to take MRSA seriously.

The report, shown exclusively to The Sun, will embarrass Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt who said in May MRSA was her “top priority”.

The PA conducted a survey on 2,121 infection experts in Britain’s 28 health authorities

They found that only 44 per cent of patients are screened for MRSA when they are admitted to hospital.

Just half are checked before being moved for treatment elsewhere.

The survey also found more than half of doctors and 40 per cent of nurses do not clean their hands between treating different people.

Almost a third of NHS hospitals do not employ cleaning teams at night — busy times for A&E units.

Some hospitals have no infection control expert nurses.

And many NHS trusts share their skills between hospitals.

The PA will tomorrow publish a ten-point plan to help minimise infections among patients.

Chairman Michael Summers said failing to check patients increases the likelihood of spreading germs.

He added: “Ideally we should be screening all patients but that would be difficult in emergencies.

“Still there are classes of patient who should be screened automatically.

“We shouldn’t need government guidelines for something so obvious.

“Hospital-acquired infections kill 5,000 each year and we have the worst rates in Europe”.

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Wednesday, 02 November 2005 11:06
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
A British scientist, Dr Rose Cooper, based at the University of Wales Institute, Cardiff, has clinched a £28,000 grant to fund research into how simple breakfast honey can combat the killer MRSA superbug.

The money from the British Society for Anti-Microbial Chemotherapy will fund 12 months' research into the role of New Zealand manuka honey in the fight against MRSA.

Dr Cooper will study how common breakfast-table honey, Down Under, made by bees which collect nectar from the wild manuka bush, affects cell division in MRSA.

Dr Cooper, who is principal lecturer at the university's School of Applied Sciences, has been studying the health benefits of honey for eight years.

She said "When I started this work in 1997, I think people thought I was off my trolley,"

"But ancient civilisations have always used honey as medication, and there is evidence the Ancient Egyptians used it in 70% of their remedies.

"If you talk to nurses, it was even used in British hospitals up to 30 years ago, but has been phased out.

"These days, in the medical profession you need evidence to change attitudes, and I am optimistic that we can do that”.

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Sunday, 30 October 2005 09:12
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
New figures published by the Scottish Executive which was a response to a written question by the Scottish National party’s Stewart Stevenson, shows that the number of hospital acquired infections were responsible for the deaths of more than 400 patients in Scotland last year.

The figures show that methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), a superbug that does not respond to antibiotics, was a direct cause of 42 deaths, while clostridium difficile, a virulent stomach bug, was responsible for 98 deaths.

The death rate from MRSA and clostridium difficile has risen by more than 40% since 2001 and is marginally higher than in England.

The statistics will cause further embarrassment to the Scottish executive, which was forced to admit earlier this year that its £15m drive to tackle the menace of hospital acquired infections (HAIs) had failed to curb their spread.

Professor Hugh Pennington, the microbiologist and expert on HAIs based at Aberdeen University, said the death toll from both bugs in Scotland is unacceptable. “These figures are obviously too high, most of these deaths are preventable,” he said. “Both bugs have strains which have specialised in spreading in hospitals. If we had cleaner hospitals which dealt with infections more effectively then we could pretty well get rid of them.

“It is too early to say whether what we are doing now will solve the problem. I have my doubts that it will reduce the levels of MRSA to what we could reduce it to. Countries such as Holland and Norway have virtually eradicated the bugs from their hospitals”.

Margaret Davidson, chief executive of the Scotland Patients’ Association, added: “These figures are appalling. One death is too many, 400 are simply not acceptable. The Scottish executive’s initiatives have not worked and they must now do something to finally get rid of these bugs”.

Every year more than 33,000 patients develop infections in hospital. HAIs cost the National Health Service £186m and are responsible for the loss of 380,000 bed days every year.

The Scottish Executive said: “Across the NHS we have invested £15m in a comprehensive infection control campaign to combat the problem of healthcare associated infections. Good hand hygiene, prudent antibiotic prescribing and comprehensive staff training all play a vital role in controlling infection and we now have measures in place for this”.

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Friday, 28 October 2005 11:44
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
An expert from the Medical Research Council has labelled MRSA hospital league tables “meaningless” because of the superbug’s volatile nature.

David Spiegelhalter said that infection clusters distorted the true picture meaning that even if hospitals eliminated the underlying risk it would not necessarily be reflected in the published infection rates.

The government introduced the mandatory surveillance programme in 2002 and set at target of reducing rates by 50 per cent by 2008.

Dr Spielgelhalter said: "The basic problem is that it is unclear whether the targets refer to an observed rate reduction or a true reduction in underlying risk.

"This ambiguity is unimportant at the national level but, for individual hospitals, chance variation can make the observed rates extremely volatile and make simplistic notions of hitting targets unreliable."

The British Medical Journal study highlighted the case of Aintree Hospitals NHS Trust which had 34 cases in 2001-2, 66 in 2002-3 and 48 the following year.

Dr Spielgelhalter said that even if a hospital reduced the real risk of MRSA infection by 20 per cent, this might not be reflected in published statistics.

Georgia Duckworth, of the Health Protection Agency, accepted there were limitations to the figures, but added: "Mandatory surveillance of MRSA infection rates has raised the profile of infection control."

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Saturday, 22 October 2005 10:09
BNN: British Nursing News Online ·
Ward 11 at Ninewells Hospital in Dundee, Scotland; have closed the ward to new admissions to prevent the spread of the deadly MRSA superbug.

NHS Tayside health authority took the action after 16 of the 24 patients in a 30-bed ward, which treats mainly elderly patients with vascular conditions, were found to be carrying the bug. The non-infected patients have been moved to a separate area and given their own team of nurses.

A spokeswoman for NHS Tayside said the decision to close the ward had been taken as a precaution after tests showed the number of patients who were carrying MRSA was unusually high. She said those with the condition had been separated from other patients.

"As soon as the problem was identified, the hospital infection control team took immediate steps to limit the further spread of MRSA. This includes a 'cohort nursing' system. This means that the nursing staffs are separated into two teams: one team cares for patients who have been identified as carrying MRSA; the other team looks after only those who have not tested positive for the bug.

"This way of working aims to limit the chance of cross-infection between patients. All the standard infection control procedures are in place in the ward, such as alcohol-based hand gels at every bed for the use of staff, patients and visitors."

Dr Gabby Phillips, the hospital's infection control doctor, said: "Because this is a vulnerable patient group, we felt it necessary to take the unusual step of limiting admissions to allow us to control the situation”.

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