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New laser could halt spread of infection.

Byline: Miriam Stoppard

* welcome any new approach to preventing the terrible toll taken by hospital infections, which, despite our best efforts, still appear to be on the up, at least in certain postcodes.

We can't afford to ignore them because some of the infections, especially those involving C.difficile can be fatal and of those who die, eight out of 10 are over 65.

This same group of people, 65 plus, contracts conditions where a catheter, an indwelling tube that's passed through the urethra into the bladder, is necessary to drain urine out of the bladder.

Another situation where an indwelling catheter is life-saving, is where intravenous feeding or antibiotics are needed.

In most high-grade hospitals, indwelling catheters are treated with infinite care by a dedicated team.

When I was a patient in St. Thomas' Hospital, London with septicaemia I had an indwelling catheter in a vein delivering mega doses of antibiotics into my body continuously for two weeks. My catheter was attended to by a team of doctors and nurses whose aim was to prevent cross-infection, an infection from the outside, and they did it meticulously.

Any indwelling catheter, be it into a vein or your bladder, is a potential hazard. It can be the route of entry for bacterial invasion that results in overwhelming infections by drug resistant bacteria.

An ingenious invention will put paid to that. It's a revolutionary catheter that uses an in-built laser to search out and destroy bacteria responsible for one of the most common hospital infections.

A team from University College Hospital, London, headed by Professor Wilson, have devised a way of impregnating the plastic tubing with light-sensitive chemicals that will stop bacteria from travelling up the catheter into a patient's body.

A fibre-optic laser carries light pulses down the catheter, which convert an inert material coating the catheter into bacteria-busting chemicals.

This beautiful invention has been five years in the making. The focus of the research has been to explore the field of photo disinfection, disinfecting with light.

This is because bacteria can mutate into resistant forms faster than we can come up with new antibiotics to which they're very sensitive.

In the UCL model, a light-sensitive dye called methylene blue is used. In the presence of light, it releases disinfecting oxygen molecules (in exactly the same way as bleach). Each laser pulse of light creates a zone of about 4cm in which few bacteria can survive.

As Professor Wilson says, it's a triple whammy: bacteria are immobilised so they can't climb up the catheter, they're dislodged, then they're killed.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Aug 6, 2012
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