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'Silver bullet' to kill superbug

2 November 09 13:08 GMT

New products which use silver to kill the superbug MRSA are to be tested in clinical trials in Scotland next year.

Technology company Giltech will test a nasal ointment and body wash in the Ayrshire and Arran health board area.

Both contain silver ions which are known to be effective against hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) such as MRSA and Clostridium difficile (C.diff).

If the products prove successful they could be available, pending further tests, in several years.

It is estimated that 300,000 patients develop a HAI in the UK each year.

These infections are the leading cause of death for more than 5,000 patients.

A national screening programme for MRSA is currently in place in Scotland.

All patients going into hospital for an operation are tested beforehand to determine whether they are a carrier of the superbug.

If a patient receives a positive result they are prescribed a nasal ointment and an antiseptic body wash to use over a three day period in an attempt to eradicate the bacteria.

For certain patients, however, repeat treatments are required and adverse effects on skin can also be experienced.

It is hoped the new products using silver ions will have better results.

Dr Bob Masterton, from NHS Ayrshire and Arran, described the clinical trials as "a really exciting innovation".

"We need something that patients are happy with and that will be clinically effective and safe.

"This new approach of silver ion technology offers enticing promises for better patient safety and I look forward to testing its potential."

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