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Body defences used to battle bugs


Hospital bugs could be wiped out by a compound that mimics one of the body’s weapons against bacteria, it has been claimed.

Scientists have discovered that the material, which can be added to disinfectants and wound dressings, or used to coat hospital equipment, releases nitric oxide – also generated by the immune system to kill microbes.

The findings, published in the journal Acta Biomaterialia, show that scientists have tested the product against a range of bacteria including those responsible for hospital infections, such as Clostridium difficile (C diff).

Targeting bugs with the gas had previously proved difficult because it dissipates quickly into the atmosphere. The new compound traps nitric oxide and only releases it when wet.

Hospital-acquired infections affect more than 300,000 patients each year in the UK and cause around 5,000 deaths.

Professor Adriano Rossi, from the University of Edinburgh, who led the research, said: “Immune cells within our body release nitric oxide when targeting bugs. Creating a material that can trap and then release nitric oxide gas means that we are able to kill bugs on surfaces.”

Copyright Press Association 2009

Acta Biomaterialia

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