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Researchers Say Battle MRSA Bacteria in Hospitals by Flooding Hospitals with Viruses

Originally published 5 December 2003


Researchers at the university of Warwick are proposing battling the problem of the so called super bug MRSA Bacteria contamination in Hospitals by filling hospitals with viruses.

The virus they have in mind however is a “bacteriophage” one that specifically targets and kills a bacteria.

Until recently much current work in phage therapy focuses on the application of lytic bacteriophages because of their ruthless action in always killing target bacteria. However phages of this type that infect MRSA are difficult to isolate.

The University of Warwick researchers however have turned to Lysogenic Phages, which tend to live in relative harmony within host bacteria – only killing the bacterium, reproducing and moving on when the bacterium itself is near the end of its life.

These lysogenic phages live within bacteria in the form of a prophage. The Warwick researchers have developed techniques to identify them within interesting target bacteria – particularly MRSA – and they can then specially mutate them into a new form capable of infecting and killing the appropriate bacterium. These altered phages have an increased host range compared to the wild type, which are often specific to just one strain of a bacterium, and can be used to control the species from which they were obtained. Most bacteria contain prophages and so are susceptible to this approach.

These useful new phages can be used in any cleaning operation in a hospital designed to combat MRSA or in cleaning agents for staff (including an aqueous suspension to treat nasal carriage of MRSA) or can even be incorporated in wound dressings.

The University of Warwick researchers have now established a spin out company Novolytics to exploit the technology of their new technology (which they have called ABSEPT) allowing them to use these phages in this way.

Note for Editors: Further information can be found at the Novolytics web site http://www.novolytics.co.uk/

For further information contact:

Professor Nicholas H. Mann
Department of Biological Sciences
University of Warwick Coventry CV4 7AL
Tel:44 (0)24 7652 3526
Email N.H.Mann@warwick.ac.uk