News 9 MD: Attacking superbugs

Published: Nov. 7, 2014 at 2:23 AM EST|Updated: Nov. 8, 2014 at 6:23 PM EST
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(WTVM) - More than 70,000 Americans will die each year from an infection they caught in the hospital.

Superbugs have invaded hospitals and proved difficult to treat. They are tiny, sneaky, and deadly!  These infections are lurking inside hospitals everywhere.

"The organisms are smart,” says Sasha Madison of Stanford Hospital's Infection Prevention Program. “They're always a step ahead of us!"

Now, there are two breakthroughs that are showing promise. Superbugs like MRSA, C. diff, and E. coli are hard to treat, but scientists from Queen's University Belfast in Ireland have developed a gel that kills infections.

"Our gel is unique because they are the first peptide-based gels that act against resistant bio-forms of hospital superbugs," explains Garry Laverty, Ph.D.

The gel is derived from peptides, the same building blocks of natural proteins that form human tissue.

"They occur naturally, and are natural molecules that fight infection," Laverty said.

Another weapon in infection fighting is a robot that essentially cleans and disinfects a hospital room.

"We have a higher level of assurance that the room is truly the cleanest it can be for our patients," Madison said.

The Xenex uses UV pulsating light to disrupt an organism's DNA, killing spores, bacteria, viruses and mold.

"So, what we're trying to do is bring those organisms way, way, way, down," Madison added.

In one study, the robot reduced surface contamination in the OR by 81 percent and air contamination by 46 percent.

Two new ways to fight infections - and maybe save lives! The disinfecting robot can be used in patient rooms, the operating room and even the ER.

Researchers in Ireland have published more about their infection-fighting gel in the Bio-Macro-Molecules Journal.

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