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Hospital Healthcare Europe

Fears over drug-resistant superbug

7 May, 2008  

A drug-resistant microbe that clings to catheters and ventilation tubes in hospitals is posing a dangerous new “superbug” threat.

Studies into the genetic code of the bug, known as Steno, have sparked fears about its ability to shrug off antibiotics.

Around 1,000 cases of blood poisoning caused by Stenotrophomonas maltophilia are reported in the UK each year and nearly a third of them prove fatal.

Experts have said Steno infections are still relatively uncommon, but are on the increase.

A highly resistant strain of the bug is at least as hard to treat as well-known “superbugs” such as MRSA and Clostridium difficile.

The bacterium flourishes in moist environments like catheters or ventilation tubes that have been left in place for long periods of time.

Steno grows into a “biofilm” coating, which is difficult to remove, and then enters the bloodstream, resulting in poisoning or pneumonia in weak patients.

A complete blueprint of the genetic code sequence of Steno appears in the journal Genome Biology.

Dr Matthew Avison, from the University of Bristol, said: “This is the latest in an ever-increasing list of antibiotic-resistant hospital superbugs. The degree of resistance it shows is very worrying. Strains are now emerging that are resistant to all available antibiotics, and so new drugs are currently in development.”

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