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Trust trial supports breakthrough in battle against hospital superbug

British scientists have scored a major breakthrough in the battle against hospital superbugs which contribute to the deaths of nearly 10,000 patients a year. A new groundbreaking disinfectant has cut levels of MRSA on wards by one third in comparison with the NHS 'gold standard' bleach-based cleaning agent, according to the biggest-ever hospital infection trial conducted in the UK. The results from the 11-month independent study at Manchester Royal Infirmary (MRI) amount to a significant boost to hopes of eradicating superbugs from UK hospitals. The study was supervised by TrusTECH, the NHS’s Innovation Hub in the North West of England. The AzoMaxActive™ product range manufactured by Synergy Health and containing Byotrol™ technology was used in the study. It has a unique polymer-based structure which enables it to continue killing bacteria for days after being first applied. Its manufacturers and distributors are now pressing for its use throughout the NHS. Lord Warner, the former Health Minister, who is an adviser to Byotrol PLC, said the Manchester results warranted much wider use of the technology in the NHS as part of the campaign to wipe out hospital superbugs. Healthcare Acquired Infections (HCAIs) cost the UK economy as much as £11 billion a year and the health sector £1 billion a year, according to an independent report from the British Medical Association. Although progress in controlling superbugs has been made recently after the Health Department mounted a £120 million “deep clean” operation, a National Audit Office report in June found that 300,000 patients – one in 12 – contracts an infection in an English hospital every year. Dr Andrew Dodgson, the microbiologist who led the trial at the MRI, said: “We have made significant reductions in our rates of HCAI at Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, including the MRI. With this in mind we were very excited to be able to look at a new technology that could potentially reduce our rates even further. The results we have seen from the trial are very impressive. Cutting the levels of pathogens in the environment reduces the risk to patients of picking up an infection. “Our study has shown a reduction of one third in levels of MRSA in the environment when the new disinfectant was compared with the 'gold standard' bleach-based NHS cleaning agent. “The new disinfectant has a potential role to play in helping all hospitals in the battle to control HCAIs and the demonstration of a residual antibacterial effect is a major new discovery that will be an additional weapon for the NHS in the battle against superbugs.” The large-scale MRI study involved four general medical wards and the taking of swabs, checking for levels of bacteria, from more than 4,000 individual sites. From the start AzoMaxActive with the Byotrol technology matched the performance of bleach and after a few weeks produced a significant drop in bacterial levels on the ward and then continued to outperform bleach throughout the study. The trial followed a “crossover format” in which the test product was used on two wards for six months then used on the two bleach-cleaned control wards for another five months. Its advantage over bleach was maintained throughout the trial. But it has one more significant advantage over bleach, which is harmful when in contact with patients and even the cleaners who use it. The Byotrol technology is not toxic and can be used in close proximity to patients without harming them. It can also be used to put on hands and can be used as wipes which gives it an even greater capacity to combat the spread of infections from person to person . This means Byotrol could be used much more broadly across a hospital, as opposed to current NHS practice that limits the regular use of bleach to all but the most high-risk areas in hospitals. Laboratory tests have shown that Byotrol is effective against another major superbug , Clostridium difficile. But because levels of this pathogen were low at the Manchester hospital it was not possible statistically to quantify its performance compared with existing disinfectants. The costs to the NHS of using AzoMaxActive are roughly the same as bleach-based cleaning agents. The MRI investigation follows earlier pilot tests. At Glasgow Royal Infirmary (GRI) Byotrol produced a 50 per cent cut in levels of MRSA in the wards even after cleaning with a detergent. At Monroe hospital in the USA, there have been no recorded cases of MRSA since its take up of the Byotrol technology in 2007. Stephen Falder, the microbiologist who invented Byotrol and founded Byotrol PLC, said: “The Manchester results are hugely encouraging. Widespread use of Byotrol across the NHS would enable us to take giant strides in eradicating the scourge of the superbug and bring great reassurance and safety to patients.” Professor Curtis Gemmell, who conducted the earlier Glasgow test and who is an adviser to Byotrol PLC, said: "It is clear from the MRI study that the microbiological cleanliness attained was superior to bleach and the results obtained in this study warrant its adoption in hospitals. “AzoMaxActive with Byotrol technology is a safer alternative to bleach and hitherto has not been shown to engender resistance or tolerance amongst hospital bacteria, nor does it damage hospital surfaces. “One benefit which is worth serious consideration as part of any hospital hygiene bundle is the recognition that Byotrol displays residual anti-bacterial activity for more than a day after its application to inanimate surfaces unlike bleach. “