Breakthrough in superbug fight

Biotechnology experts from the north east have made a breakthrough in the fight against a superbug which kills ten of thousands of people every year. SunderlandUniversityis leading the team, which has discovered a technique to identify the disease within two days of infection, greatly increasing the chance of survival.

The bug, pseudomonas aeruginosa, particularly infects patients with cystic fibrosis and 25 per cent of these cases prove fatal. Cystic fibrosis affects 70,000 people worldwide and an estimated 50 per cent of these sufferers are infected with the disease. It also attacks patients with localised and systematic immune defects such as AIDS and cancer.

The disease is very difficult to cure as it is tolerant to many detergents and antimicrobial compounds, making it difficult to control in hospitals. Similarly, the disease is resistant to antibiotics so early detection is necessary to ensure a high chance of survival.

Prof Groundwater, who leads to research, said: ‘It is calculated that 28 per cent of people who have undergone transplant surgery are infected by pseudomonas aeruginsoa.’

Groundwater added: ‘In our new diagnostic method a non-coloured compound reacts with an enzyme present in pseudomonas aeruginosa and produces a very distinctive purple colour which indicates the presence of bacteria. This technique works on 99 per cent of the strains of this superbug.’

The research is funded by bioMerieux based in France.