Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

A Step Forward in MRSA Battle; New Light Probe Could Identify Potential Victims

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

A Step Forward in MRSA Battle; New Light Probe Could Identify Potential Victims

Article excerpt

Byline: By Liz Hands Health correspondent

A NEW weapon in the fight against MRSA was unveiled by hospital doctors yesterday.

Medics at University Hospital of North Durham have invented a light probe.

It predicts which patients are likely to need treatment for hospital-acquired infections, like deadly MRSA and clostridium difficile, even before they are diagnosed by conventional methods.

The research could help doctors and nurses act quickly to prevent infections in vulnerable patients recovering from operations.

"To be able to identify those patients most at risk of infection at just 12 hours after surgery gives you the opportunity to actually do something about it," said Dr David Harrison, who led the University Hospital research team.

Surgical wound infections, including those caused by MRSA, can affect patients after surgery, causing complications, or even death.

Contamination of the wound with bacteria is one cause and, although hospitals do have hygiene procedures, some patients have a far higher risk of developing an infection.

This is because not enough oxygen-rich blood is reaching their wound.

Lack of oxygen slows down healing, offering more time for an infection to take hold, and also hampers the body's immune system as it tries to fight off harmful bacteria.

Dr Harrison's technique works on a simple principle - blood cells carrying oxygen are bright red, while those which have no oxygen are purple.

His handheld device bounces an infrared light into the skin around a wound.

The signal that reflects back is different depending on the colour of blood cells in the wound.

"The beauty of this device," added Dr Harrison, "is that there is no need to even remove the transparent film that is placed across the wound after surgery - it's completely non-invasive. …

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