Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Opportunistic Killers
05 November 2014

Opportunistic Killers

The problem is so serious that the British health authorities have declared war on hospital superbugs that now infect one in sixteen patients. A cluster of MRSE bacteria (close relatives of the MRSA superbug) is seen here secreting a slimy matrix or biofilm (shown in purple) that can shield them from antibiotics. Any place with cramped living conditions like hospitals, prisons, and gyms give the bugs a happy home, but they leave most healthy people unharmed, pouncing instead when their victim's immune system is weak. That makes hospitals a fertile hunting ground, where they lurk on unwashed hands or poorly sterilised medical instruments such as catheters. But the reign of these superbugs might be ending if a new type of antibacterial gel lives up to its inventors’ expectations. By breaking-up the slimy biofilm that coats the bugs, the gel leaves them unshielded while therapies can get to work on them.

Written by Tristan Farrow

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