Research on the front line


November 2nd, 2010

Ambitious plans by researchers at The University of Nottingham to use the latest sophisticated scientific techniques in the fight against healthcare-acquired infections are a step closer, thanks to a charity event which has raised more than £26,000.

Researchers at the University’s Centre for Healthcare Associated Infections (CHAI), the country’s leading research institute studying the spread of superbugs, plan to use the cash injection towards funding their programme of next generation genome sequencing.

The £26,500 will contribute to the centre’s ultimate fundraising goal of £1.4 million. The research will focus on the study of clinical strains that cause serious infections such as Methicillinresistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA), Clostridium diffi cile and Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a gram-negative bacteria which is particularly dangerous to those with weak immune systems, such as babies and young children.

Prof Richard James, Director of CHAI, said: “This important research will examine the genetic differences between these different strains of superbug which will give us a greater insight into the mechanisms they use to multiply and attack the human body. It will be instrumental in helping us to develop rapid diagnostic tests for the detection of these evolving pathogens.

“The support of fundraising events such as this is vital in providing us with a cash lifeline to underpin research, at a time when the future of funding from central government is uncertain. Unlike other medical causes such as cancer, there is currently no national charity dedicated to raising money to fund research into these deadly bacteria.”

The gala dinner and charity auction held at the Royal Automobile Club on London’s Pall Mall saw exclusive lots going under the hammer in support of CHAI, including a pair of Debenture tickets for the opening day of Wimbledon 2011, the chance to tour the BBC studios and watch the national TV news air live and a haircut with celebrity stylist Trevor Sorbie.

The event was attended by CHAI’s patron Leslie Ash, the actress who suffered irreversible health problems after contracting MSSA, a strain of MRSA, six years ago. Host for the evening was journalist and ITN newscaster Alastair Stewart who told the gathered supporters that his colleagues had come face-to-face many times with the sadness and tragedy caused by healthcareacquired infections.

“This is an enemy that does not stand still and does not rest on its deadly laurels, with a death toll of 37,000 killed in the last 10 years,” he added. “To extend the military metaphor further, bacteria have an enormous and rapid capacity for change to meet any challenge thrown at them. They’re wily enemies, expert and camoufl age, hyper-fast in responding to a changing tactical situation, exploiting every weakness immediately.

“And in this war, they’re often at least one jump ahead of their major enemy — us. Already they’ve extended their attack, out of the healthcare setting and into the community. But now they have an elite, special forces unit to deal with — CHAI.”

Donations can be made via the CHAI website at www.hcai.nottingham.ac.uk

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