News | October 28, 2007

British Researchers Look at Effects of Humidity on Super Bugs

October 29, 2007 - Researchers at Bradford University in the United Kingdom will be investigating the effects of humidity on hospital ‘super bugs’ using one of the largest known biological test chambers in the world.

The Bradford Infection Group (BIG), based within the University of Bradford’s Schools of Engineering, Design & Technology and Life Sciences, was recently awarded funding worth more than $325,000 to investigate an alternative strategy for controlling hospital acquired infections.

The grant, from the U.K. Department of Health’s National Institute for Health Research NHS Physical Environment Research Program, will support BIG’s two-year research, which will involve simulating a hospital ward environment using a brand new state-of-the-art aerobiological test chamber housed at the University of Bradford.

This facility, thought to be the largest in the U.K. and one of the largest known facilities of its kind in the world, allows microbiological experiments to be undertaken in a completely controlled environment and enables researchers to mimic parts of hospitals, such as isolation wards.

“Approximately one in 10 patients pick up an infection during a hospital stay,” said Clive Beggs, head of the Bradford Infection Group and professor of medical engineering at the University of Bradford. “While hand-washing and other hygiene measures are vital, evidence suggests that these measures alone are not always enough to prevent certain infections and therefore a fresh approach is needed. We know that many gram-negative bacteria desiccate and die in dry environments. We are therefore investigating the extent to which humidity control might assist in the fight against infection.”

The research group will model the impact of humidity on bacteria and, in particular, looking at how humidity control might be used to prevent the spread of infection via contaminated surfaces and air in hospital wards.

“The biological impact of changes in room humidity on different pathogens is something that is still poorly understood,” said Dr. Anna Snelling, microbiologist at the University of Bradford and a member of the BIG. “This is an important and much overlooked subject which may hold the key to future improvements in ward cleanliness.”

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