Page last updated at 06:28 GMT, Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Queen's team in MRSA breakthrough

MRSA under microscope

Queen's University scientists have developed what is thought to be a new way of fighting MRSA and other so-called hospital superbugs.

The discovery by the university's ionic liquids team has been published in a leading scientific journal.

The team have been developing salts which can be used to prevent the growth of colonies of dangerous germs.

Dr Martyn Earle from the team said he hoped it could soon be used in the battle to keep wards free from MRSA.

Many types of bacteria, such as MRSA, exist in colonies that stick to the surfaces of materials.

The colonies often form coatings, known as biofilms, that protect them from antiseptics, disinfectants, and antibiotics.

Dr Earle said they had found a way to combat the biofilms using ionic liquids. Ionic liquids are essentially salts which are liquid at around room temperature.

Even resistant bacteria like MRSA have no resistance whatsoever to ionic liquids.
Dr Martyn Earle

"We have shown that, when pitted against the ionic liquids we developed and tested, biofilms offer little or no protection to MRSA, or to seven other infectious micro-organisms."

"The whole point of an ionic liquid is that is doesn't evaporate, so once it is on a surface absolutely no bacteria will grow on that surface.

"Even resistant bacteria like MRSA have very little resistance to ionic liquids."

"We hope something like this will be taken up in hospitals, particularly for cleaning surfaces," he added.

The development was carried out by eight researchers from the Queen's University Ionic Liquid Laboratories (QUILL) centre with supported by a grant from Invest NI.

The research has been published in the journal, Green Chemistry.

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