Dr Michael McArthur examines Petri dishes

MRSA fightback starts with a sniff

By Victoria Ellis - 29 October 2013

An innovative antibacterial nasal spray that will kill just MRSA bacteria is being developed by scientists working on the Norwich Research Park.

The spray, which can be used to decolonise patients prior to major surgery, promises to speed up recovery times and reduce the number of repeat operations.

Procarta Biosystems has developed a novel type of antibiotic specifically to treat MRSA 'superbugs' and is pleased to announce a collaborative research project funded by the University of East Anglia (UEA) Medical School to adapt this for use as a nasal spray.

For many people the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) naturally and harmlessly lives in the front part of their noses and is not considered a significant threat. It is when drug-resistant strains colonise the nose that there is a marked chance that someone undergoing surgery will develop an infection.

MRSA infections following major surgery, such as after a knee or hip replacement, are particularly serious as the patient is weakened and thus recovery from the infection is more challenging. When the infection surrounds the replaced joint the remedy can sometimes only be to repeat the operation and put in a new device, dramatically increasing costs.

Procarta has discovered how to turn off essential genes in bacteria and therefore prevent the growth of the pathogen and spread of the infection.

Dr. Michael McArthur, chief scientific officer of Procarta Biosystems says: “We are offering a novel approach in the fight against antibiotic resistant bacteria.

"Targeting gene expression is a new concept and so far no bacterial strains resistant to this approach have been identified. This means that the therapy is not only effective against drug-resistant strains but, with judicious use, may also suppress the rise of future resistances.”

On the Norwich Research Park, there is considerable knowledge of how to translate this type of disruptive research to bring it into the clinic and Dr McArthur’s company has built a strong collaborative network with fellow scientists at UEA, the Institute of Food Research and the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.

Alastair Watson, Professor of Translational Medicine, UEA says: “Procarta has added an important new weapon to our armoury. This collaboration is a good example of how the public and private sector can work together, hopefully, to bring much needed new drugs to the clinic.”

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