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The University of Limerick has secured a EUR5M technology research contract aimed at significantly reducing MRSA infection rates in hospitals across the world. The trans-European project team plans to use nanotechnology to develop MRSA-resistant textiles such as hospital gowns and beddings, which can kill bacteria and be self-sterilising.
Project partners include nine other European agencies, as well as NUI Galway and Irish companies BeoCare and Cook Medical.
"The spread of drug-resistant germs such as MRSA is a major public health concern", stated Dr. Tofail Syed, Project Coordinator.
He commented, "A significant element of the MRSA problem arises from the use of conventional textiles such as hospital gowns, curtains, beddings and pillow covers. As a result, hospital sterility has been a major concern in countries like Ireland, Germany and Belgium. We intend to develop nanotechnology-derived textiles that will help hospitals in their fight against MRSA."
In the EU alone, in excess of 3 million people develop an infection arising from hospital-based infections, resulting in approximately 50,000 deaths per annum. One in 10 patients entering a European hospital will develop an infection caused by drug-resistant microbes such as the hospital super bug, MRSA.
Dr. Syed explained, "In Southern and Western Europe, over 40 per cent of hospitals have significant problems with the MRSA super bug. We are confident of redressing this statistic through our research and development of MRSA-resistant textiles."
MRSA-resistant textile is one of the four major health issues that the UL-led consortium will address in the 3-year research programme funded by the European Commission under its Framework Programme 7 (Nanotechnology, Materials and Production).
The other health issues include plaque-resistant cardio-vascular stents, urinary stents with less stone formation and bone implants that will heal more rapidly than their conventional equivalents.
According to Mr. Liam Brown, UL Director of Research Support, "The project addresses four major areas of European healthcare that affect the quality of life of European citizens and cost European states considerable amount of money. In particular, cardiovascular disease is the cause of half of deaths in Europe, accounting for in excess of 2 million deaths per year. Arterial thrombosis contributes significantly and the project will directly address this issue".
Mr. Brown, who is also an Enterprise Ireland National Delegate on Framework Programme 7, added that bone diseases remained a major health concern for Europe due to the continent's ageing population.
He said, "Half of all chronic conditions of those aged 65 and over are caused by osteoarthritis and among the younger population, the occurrence of bone injuries is increasing because of more leisure activity and accidents. A direct output of the project will be the stimulating of bone growth by 30%."
Dr. Edmond Magner, Director of the University of Limerick-based Materials and Surface Science Institute (MSSI) pointed out that the research programme placed Ireland at the forefront of European activity in developing nanotechnology-based solutions to healthcare related problems.
"The awarding of the EUR5m contract to UL is a testament of Ireland's role as a leading Research and Development centre for the worldwide Biomedical sector", he commented.
Dr. Imelda Lambkin, Enterprise Ireland National Director FP7 Ireland, said she was delighted that MSSI had been awarded an internationally important contract that would result in significant health benefits for patients across Europe.
Dr. Lambkin continued, "The EU's Framework Programme 7, the largest civil research programme with in excess of €50Billion from 2007-2013, is a major opportunity for the University of Limerick and the other universities, companies and research actors to further their research agendas on an international stage."
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Dunphy Public Relations
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