Research project aims to combat high rates of the bug MRSA in Irish hospitals.

The four year research project will try to find better ways to detect and prevent the spread of the hospital superbug, MRSA and other hospital-acquired infections.

The 1.5 million euro project, being funded by the Health Research Board, will examine if sterilising corridors, wards and theatres, rather than using disinfectant, is more effective and will also look at the use of rapid MRSA detection machines.

Ireland has one of the highest rates in Europe of the hospital super bug MRSA.

The MRSA bacteria is resistant to common anti-biotics and is spread through poor hand hygiene and dirty hospitals. The research project will look at better ways to stop the spread of this bug.

The project will also examine if contamination of hospital areas with MRSA increases the risk of infection or if other factors are more important. Professor Hilary Humphreys of Beaumont Hospital says that the scientific data is not very strong to support this thinking and the project hopes to investigate if it is in fact true.

Logic would suggest that if you have an unclean environment then that would contribute to infection.

While improved hygiene and cleaning have been introduced in hospitals, these measures have not eliminated health care infections and this research will examine why. It will also examine if rapid MRSA detection machines are part of the solution. Doctors point to problems such as over crowding and lack of isolation rooms as major factors in the spread of the virus.

A number of Scandinavian countries have almost eliminated MRSA from their hospitals. Dr Robert Cunney of the Health Protection Surveillance Centre says that what is needed is good screening and surveillance programmes, sufficient levels of staffing, good hospital infrastructure, and hospital staff must use infection control precautions.

The findings of the research will be pilot tested at Beaumont Hospital.

An RTÉ News report broadcast on 19 January 2007. The reporter is Fergal Bowers.