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Superbug killer found in rockpool

The staphylococcus bacteria accounts for almost half of all UK hospital infections
The staphylococcus bacteria accounts for almost half of all UK hospital infections

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EDINBURGH, Scotland -- Scientists may have found the answer to Britain's most dangerous hospital superbug -- in slime taken from Scottish rock pools.

Several types of bacteria found by the five-person team produce an antibiotic that acts against the notorious hospital superbug, MRSA (Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus.)

One in particular is so effective it is already attracting keen interest from the big drug companies.

Dr Jonathan David, technical director at the scientists' company AquaPharm Bio-Discovery Ltd, told the Press Association: "It appears to be very potent in terms of what concentration is required to kill MRSA.

"It completely stops them dead, preventing any further growth and killing the existing bacteria."

MRSA, which has swept through hospitals in the UK over the past decade, is impervious to most antibiotics and poses the greatest threat to patients who have undergone surgery.

In 1991, it accounted for just under two percent of 4,966 reports of staphylococcus blood infection in hospitals in England and Wales.

By 2001 that figure had risen to 41 percent of 12,631 reports.

AquaPharm is keeping the identity of its MRSA-killing bacteria a closely guarded secret, and taken out patents on how they can be cultivated and used.

The bacteria produce a natural powerful antibiotic to fight off other bugs that might want to invade their colony sites.

They are collected by scraping off the surface slime from rocks, plants and invertebrates such as sea anemones.

"It's essentially beachcombing," said Dr David.

"We go for whatever we think is likely to be of interest. There are certain sites to look for -- basically it's down to experience.

"Usually we take some of the substrate on which the bacteria live and put it in vials."

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