hear in the news this week,  that researchers from the University of Cambridge and the Sanger Institute, helped a Cambridge hospital to halt an outbreak of the "hospital superbug" MRSA." />

MRSA outbreak stopped by its own genetic code

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Staff apparently came concerned after a number of babies being treated at the hospital were found to be carrying MRSA during routine testing. Scientists and researchers were able to determine the entire genetic code of the bacteria that were found, and to establish that all cases had most likely come from a common source.Staff members who may have come into contact with the patients were then tested, and one member was identified as carrying an MRSA strain that was genetically very similar to those identified in the babies. There is no indication in the coverage that I have seen and heard that the staff member was ill, or even knew that they were carrying the organism. They were treated however and the outbreak appears to have been halted.

Many people carry the bacteria staphylococcus aureus on their skin or in their nose. When this becomes resistant to various antibiotics, it is classed as being methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). Around 1% of the population carries MRSA around on their skin or in their nose with no ill effect, and indeed the bacteria is not usually a problem unless the individual has an open wound or lowered immune system, which explains why it can be seen as more of a problem in hospitals, than in the general community.

I was even more impressed to read in the BBC Online report, that the cost of genotyping the bacteria, which can in turn lead to identifying the source, is relatively inexpensive, particularly when compared with the cost of treating and caring for someone who has become unwell because of the infection, which as the name suggests, is notoriously difficult to treat. It is suggested that this could become standard practice in hospitals across the country in a relatively short space of time. If future trials of this method go as well, then this would provide a different and hopefully cost-effective method of successfully tackling hospital acquired infections.

Kym Provan
Senior Associate

Clinical Negligence team

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