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Germ-killing paint brings new hope in war on MRSA

A new paint which can kill MRSA bugs within 20 minutes of contact is being developed by researchers.

MRSA infections cost Irish hospitals more than €23m annually. Eighty-six new cases of infection were reported here in the first three months of this year alone.

The new paint would be used to coat surgical equipment, hospital walls and other surfaces, such as door knobs and even surgical masks.

It is harmless to humans, does not rely on antibiotics and will not leach chemicals into the surrounding environment.

The researchers say the painted surface can be washed repeatedly without losing effectiveness.

Scientists at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York say an enzyme in the paint attaches itself to the MRSA bug cell wall and then slices it open.

During testing, 100pc of MRSA bugs were killed within 20 minutes of contact with a surface coated with the paint.

A report earlier this year found the cost of dealing with healthcare associated infections in this country runs to €234m a year and MRSA accounts for 10pc of the costs. Patients with MRSA have to stay in hospital 11 days longer than other patients. They are also seven times more likely to die.

Ireland ranks fourth in Europe for MRSA infection with only Portugal, Greece and Italy ahead of us.

While the rate of infection is declining and has dropped from a peak of 592 cases in 2005 to 355 cases last year, Consultant microbiologist at Beaumont Hospital and chairman of the MRSA group, Dr Edmond Smyth says it is "still a major issue resulting in illness and, in some cases, death".

csheehy@herald.ie