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Research project to identify best ways of treating and preventing hospital ’superbugs’


Researchers at The University of Nottingham are joining forces with health protection specialists to study the spread of hospital ’superbugs’ such as MRSA and identify successful methods of prevention and treatment.

The results of the research project could be used to inform future best practice guidance for hospitals and health professionals.

The three-year project is being carried out by Dr Phil O’Neill in the University’s School of Mathematical Sciences, Dr Ben Cooper and colleagues at the Health Protection Agency in London and University College London Hospitals, and is funded with £113,726 from the Wellcome Trust.

The researchers will use state-of-the-art computer technology and mathematical modelling to analyse data taken from hospitals where outbreaks have occurred.

Hospital-acquired infections represent a major threat to patient welfare and have a substantial financial impact on the National Health Service. Infections caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria such as methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) are of particular concern because they are so difficult to treat.

In particular, the researchers are hoping to shed light on the effect of various antibiotics on a range of infections, the way in which different strains of infections work together, often causing infections to worsen, and the methods that are used to prevent and contain outbreaks.

Dr O’Neill said: "The data that we have from the hospitals is exceptionally detailed, so we will be using sophisticated computational methods to extract the relevant information and analyse it.

"We believe our methods will be an improvement on the way in which this kind of information has been analysed in the past as it will allow us to look at how various factors interact with each other, which has previously been overlooked."

The type of data being analysed could include anything from information on the number of infected patients on a ward, the type of treatments and drugs they received and the results of swab tests to methods used to try to avoid or control infections, such as hygiene practices and isolating affected patients.

The researchers will be looking for patterns in the successful treatment and management of infections that could lead to new strategies for handling and preventing outbreaks.

Dr Phil O’Neill | alfa
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