International scientists to present MRSA research in Liverpool

April 04, 2006

Experts in MRSA will meet at the University of Liverpool next week to discuss research that will facilitate development of new treatments for the potentially fatal bacterium.

Specialist from more than 20 leading research laboratories across Great Britain and Ireland, who work to further understanding of the bacterium, Staphylococcus aureus, will present their findings at the conference.

Staph aureus is found in the nose of up to 30% of the population and is one of many organisms that are harmless. When it breaches the skin barrier, through wounds, however, it can be a major risk factor in causing infectious disease. Most commonly infected areas include the skin, via surgical wounds and burns, and also catheter and joint replacement sites.

World renowned scientist, Professor Henri Verbrugh from Erasmus University in Rotterdam, will lead the conference in a discussion about how Staph aureus establishes itself in the nose. If scientists can understand how the bacterium survives they may find ways to prevent people from carrying it in the first place and spreading it to others.

Methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a term used to describe examples of the bacterium that are resistant to many of the most commonly used antibiotics. Until recently these strains were mostly found in hospitals and caused disease in patients. Now they can be observed in the community and are beginning to cause disease in healthy individuals.

Dr Mal Horsburgh, from the University of Liverpool's School of Biological Sciences, said: "The conference will disseminate information about Staph aureus to the research community, and help advance work on understanding its ability to cause disease which might be of use in the development of new therapies or vaccines."

Vaccine Research International will also present its work on development of a vaccine to prevent infection. The scientific software company GenOhm will discuss the latest data on tracking the spread and antibiotic resistance of bacteria that cause disease in hospitals and in the wider community. This data is important to assess whether MRSA strains are increasing or decreasing in number and to provide advice to doctors on how to treat patients that might be at risk.

Dr Horsburgh added: "My work in this area focuses on the mechanisms that the bacterium uses to avoid our immune system. The immune system is very complex and effective most of the time, yet these bacteria are able to survive despite the body's attempts to defeat them. This is why Staph aureus is particularly harmful to elderly people and those who are ill or who have undergone surgery, as this is when the body's immune system is compromised."

The conference will take place from Tuesday 11, April to Wednesday, 12 April.
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University of Liverpool

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