Page last updated at 23:27 GMT, Tuesday, 5 May 2009 00:27 UK

Computers to help superbug fight

Superbugs such as MRSA are bacteria resistant to more than one antibiotic

Powerful software which mimics the evolution of superbugs could help scientists tackle them more effectively, researchers hope.

Edinburgh University scientists have been working with computer models which could help develop more effective antibiotic treatments.

The study also encourages experts to pool their findings for a more reliable approach to bacteria growth.

They want to find out how superbugs become more resistant to antibiotics.

Scientists believe a similar approach to that used in the study, published in the BMC Systems Biology journal, could also increase understanding into the spread and treatment of cancer.

Dr Laurence Leowe, of Edinburgh University's School of Biological Sciences, said: "The emergence of superbugs resistant to antibiotics is a growing threat to healthcare, and integrating our existing knowledge about bacteria is challenging.

"Using computing power to model the complex pathways by which bacteria develop resistance to antibiotics could help find a fresh way to predict how superbugs evolve - and so help to fight them."

Superbugs such as MRSA are forms of bacteria resistant to more than one antibiotic and can infect areas such as open surgical wounds.

The spread of infection can be prevented by reducing prescription of antibiotics to patients and improving hygienic practices such as hand-washing and ward cleanliness.

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