More virulent and antibiotic resistant forms of MRSA are circulating in Irish hospitals and look set to become the dominant strains in the future.

That is according to new research led by scientists from Trinity College Dublin and the National MRSA Reference Laboratory.

MRSA is a bacterial infection resistant to many common antibiotics, making it more difficult to treat.

As a result it is a major cause of hospital acquired infections.

One particular strain has been dominant in Irish hospitals for 12 years, and has caused four-fifths of life threatening MRSA blood stream infections.

However, patterns suggest its dominance may be replaced at any time by another strain.

Microbiologists at Trinity's Dental School and the National MRSA Reference Lab have being working to predict properties of that likely new dominant strain.

Studying a large sample of sporadically occurring MRSA in patients in hospitals over a decade, they found a myriad of strains and variants.

Many were more drug resistant and virulent than earlier strains, and may have come to Ireland from abroad.

According to the authors, anyone of these variants may become predominant and as a result ongoing surveillance is needed so control measures can be deployed early.

One of the authors of the new research said there have been over 50 different strains of the bug circulating in Irish hospitals in the last 12 years.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Professor David Coleman, Professor and Chair of Oral and Applied Microbiology at the School of Dental Science in Trinity, said many MRSA strains are drug-resistant and virulent.

He said there had been huge advances in genetic technology in recent years that allowed rapid analysis of emerging strains of the bacteria.

Professor Coleman said it was very possible that we will get new strains emerging of MRSA.

However, he said it was now possible to detect new strains very quickly, which meant that procedures could be put in place in hospitals to stop it spreading.

"Going on past history that's very possible that we will get new strains emerging.

"But the positive side of it is that we'll be able to detect it very, very quickly," he said.

"In the last two years we have been able to stop the spread of some particularly nasty strains by identifying them quickly," he added.