Page last updated at 23:19 GMT, Monday, 31 March 2008 00:19 UK

New stitches could help stop MRSA

Cluster of MRSA Staphylococcus aureus bacteria
The agents killed 96% of MRSA strains in tests

Stitches and dressings laced with bacteria-killing viruses could help stop the spread of MRSA in operating theatres, experts in Glasgow have said.

Strathclyde University researchers have bonded infection-fighting agents to materials such as nylon.

Sutures, the thread used to stitch up patients during operations, could host the viruses - reducing the chance of patients developing an infection.

In tests, the agents killed 96% of MRSA strains from people in three hospitals.

Dr Janice Spencer, from the University of Strathclyde, said: "Some bacteria-specific viruses - called bacteriophages - have been used in the past to help clear up infections caused by bacteria.

"However, their use died out when antibiotics like penicillin and methicillin became widely available.

"We are looking at them again now that multiple antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria have become such a problem in hospitals."

'Rapid detection'

The research team has also developed a device that allows rapid detection of MRSA on contaminated surfaces.

They claimed hospital staff would be able to use it to screen patients before surgery to limit the chances of them passing on an infection.

"Simple and effective rapid detection of bacteria is important to limit the chance of infection occurring in the first place," Dr Spencer said.

"Patients who are carriers for MRSA can be isolated and decontaminated by using standard methods or by using immobilised bacteriophages incorporated into creams or body washes."

She will present the research at the Society for General Microbiology's meeting at Edinburgh International Conference Centre later.

A year-long pilot screening programme for the MRSA in hospitals was announced by Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon last week.

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