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Last Updated: Friday, 26 October 2007, 10:59 GMT 11:59 UK
Bunker tests hospital superbugs
Scientists inside the bunker
Hospital isolation wards will be replicated inside the bunker
Hospital superbugs are being unleashed inside a bunker built by scientists exploring how the killer infections are spread.

The new facility at Bradford University is one of the largest biological test chambers in the world, experts said.

Exact replicas of hospital wards will be created inside the secure bunker.

The 175,000 project, funded by the government, is enabling scientists to study the effect of humidity on hospital superbugs.

Experts working on the project said a "fresh approach" was needed to tackle the spread of the potentially lethal bugs in hospitals.

Tests will be carried out inside the sealed bunker under the strictest of conditions.

Biological test chamber
Tests will be carried out under the strictest of conditions

Clive Beggs, head of the Bradford Infection Group, said: "Approximately one in 10 patients pick up an infection during a hospital stay.

"While hand washing and other hygiene measures are vital, evidence suggests that these measures alone are not always enough to prevent certain infections and therefore a fresh approach is needed."

The research will be carried out into E.coli and other superbugs which tend to proliferate in high dependency and intensive care units.

It will not cover MRSA or the Clostridium Difficile (C Diff) bugs, which have different molecular makeup.

Mr Beggs added: "We can make beds and clouds of bacteria are thrown up into the air, they come down onto surfaces and then those surfaces seem clean.

"But patients, doctors and nurses can touch these surfaces and they can contaminate their hands and transmit them to patients without realising they have done it."

Professor Kevin Kerr, director of infection prevention and control at Harrogate District Hospital, said one of the early findings of the research had been that humidity of the air had a "marked effect" on the ability of organisms to survive.

He said: "Therefore, by controlling the humidity, we may be able to eliminate harmful organisms from the environment."

Scientists testing superbugs in biological test chambers

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