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DCU researcher creates green solution to MRSA superbug

An international team of researchers, led by Dr Nicholas Gathergood, School of Chemical Sciences, Dublin City University, has created an antimicrobial drug which targets highly resistant strains of the MRSA superbug.

The ground-breaking research, which was funded by the Environmental Protection Agency, involves the use of renewable materials such as amino acids in creating a drug which can target the MRSA superbug without destroying any 'friendly' bacteria.

Dr Gathergood has described the research, conducted with colleagues in the Czech Republic and Spain, as 'a synergy of green chemistry and medicinal chemistry, creating exciting new pharmaceutical solutions while using environmentally friendly production processes. The biodegradable properties of this type of drug are hugely significant as it creates a very small environmental footprint and reduces the opportunity for the MRSA bug to mutate and develop resistance mechanisms.' Dr Gathergood continues, 'Our research provides a model to large pharmaceutical companies in integrating principles of sustainability from the initial stages of drug discovery through to production.'

MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) enters the bloodstream through cuts, surgical wounds and invasive devices such as catheters or implanted feeding tubes, causing infection to hospital patients with weak immune systems.

A report published in 2010 by Pfizer entitled 'MRSA in Ireland' revealed that patients who contract MRSA infections in Irish hospitals are seven times more likely to die in hospital than those that do not have secondary infections. The report also revealed that secondary MRSA infections meant that patients spent on average an extra 11 days in hospital, costing the Health Service Executive more than €23million each year.

5th April, 2012