Irish scientists' superbug war
A germ-busting coating that can be applied to bed sheets, gowns and even walls may be the next weapon against superbugs.
Irish scientists are part of a network of European experts who are examining the potential of these antimicrobial coatings to prevent the spread of drug-resistant bacteria in hospitals.
A member of the group, Prof Colum Dunne from University of Limerick's Graduate Entry Medical School, said new approaches are needed to protect hospital patients and healthcare staff from superbugs.
"Antimicrobial coatings have great potential," he said.
"These are surfaces that are fortified with active ingredients and are responsible for the reduction and even elimination of micro-organisms that come into contact with them," he added.
Irish hospitals and other healthcare settings are breeding grounds for these bugs which are difficult to treat and can cause deaths among patients.
A number of hospitals including Tallaght, Limerick and Kilkenny hospitals are currently battling outbreaks of the superbug CRE which has led to bed closures.
The Anti-Microbial Coating Innovations (AMiCI) consortium is examining materials, such as copper and silver, which are known to have antimicrobial properties.
The aim is to develop new technologies which can be used in the coatings.
Healthcare associated infections, including multidrug-resistant bacteria, pose a risk to around four million people in the EU every year.
Prof Dunne said that more than 60 universities, research institutes and companies from 26 European countries are participating in the network, marking the first time this issue is being addressed on such a large scale.
The rise of antibiotic resistance is now a global health crisis.
The more that antibiotics are usedthe easier it is for bacteria to become resistant to drugs.
Handwashing by staff remains a key protection against the spread of infection.