Manchester Metropolitan University

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Scientists reduce MRSA by 90%

SUPERBUG researchers at MMU are achieving spectacular results in tackling deadly hospital infections.

Microbiologists have worked with industry to create a vaporiser which sprays oils into the air to kill deadly micro-organisms.

A nine-month trial of the system at the burns unit of Wythenshawe Hospital has seen spectacular results, with airborne bugs, including lethal MRSA, reduced by 90% and infections on the ward plummeting.

Dr Valerie Edwards-Jones, a microbiologist has been researching the effects of essential oils on micro-organisms for several years.

Unique approach

The applied research with Scent Technologies follows work on wound dressings coated with essential oils and yeast.

Scent Technologies came to her attention because its products – which were used for masking unpleasant smells in everything from hospitals to the new Queen Mary liner – uniquely used dry dispersal rather than wet aerosols, which is what the scientists were looking for.

Scent had itself discovered that the oils it was using to filter fresh air were having beneficial effects on hospital infections but the recipe has been refined by the MMU team, working with Dr Ken Dunn, a consultant at Wythenshawe.

Dr Edwards-Jones said: "The results of our trial at Wythenshawe were extremely promising with bacterial counts in the air reduced by over 90%.

"The specific MRSA readings were even more impressive, with the product killing the superbug and resulting in no MRSA outbreaks".

As a double control, the natural essence blend was removed from the machines for the final two months. During this time, MRSA levels in the air increased, and an MRSA outbreak occurred on the ward.

Global potential

Scent Technologies began this development work in 2004, in collaboration with Micap plc and MMU, and the natural product is subject to a jointly filed patent.

Roy Jackson, MD of Scent Technologies, based in Wigan, says they have created something that has real global potential: "This is an enormous breakthrough in the treatment of life threatening infections."

Dr Edwards-Jones agrees: "This product needs to be in the wards now, playing a vital part in the combat of superbug infections."

She said it was particularly useful on burns units where direct application of oils onto skin was more problematic.

The scientists are now working on a series of potentially more effective blends.

For more about microbiology research at MMU, go to www.sci-eng.mmu.ac.uk/research/activities/groups.asp?choice1=biol&choice3=24

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