Discovery could help kill superbugs

Edinburgh scientists have developed a new compound that could help fight hospital-acquired infections such as MRSA.

The chemical mimics the body’s ability to fight bacteria and could be added to detergents or used as a coating for hospital equipment.

It works by trapping and releasing the gas nitric oxide - which is also produced by our own immune systems to kill bugs.

Fighting bacteria

Previously, harnessing the gas has proved difficult because it dissipates into the atmosphere within seconds of being released from storage. The new compound is able to trap the gas, which is released only when the compound gets wet.

Now researchers have been able to use the compound to kill off a range of bacteria including antibiotic-resistant bugs such as C.difficile.

Collaborative project

The research was led by the University, in collaboration with the University of St Andrews, Glasgow Caledonian University and the UHI Millenium Institute.

The new material could also enable nitric oxide to be incorporated into dressings to kill bugs so that they do not enter wounds.

Hospital-acquired infections are thought to affect more than 300,000 patients in the UK every year and cause around 5,000 deaths.

We hope that in future the material could be used in surface disinfectants. We could also place it on bandages or medical instruments, so that moisture from an open wound would release the gas. This would kill of the bugs before they have a chance of entering the body.

Professor Adriano RossiChair of Respiratory and Inflammation Pharmacology