It’s a bug’s life 

01/08/2011 00:00 

Research and its role in fighting infection has come under the microscope at a top-level seminar held at The Heart Hospital. 
 
The infection control seminar was attended by a wide range of healthcare professionals from UCLH/UCL

The infection control seminar was attended by a wide range of healthcare professionals from UCLH/UCL


The meeting was attended by cardiothoracic surgeons, microbiologists, infectious diseases and respiratory physicians, cardiologists, infection control and ITU nurses, pharmacists and research fellows from UCLH/UCL.
 
It underlined the importance of team-work in quickly identifying the micro-organisms responsible for causing serious infections and starting the most effective antibiotic treatment as quickly as possible.
 
The event – entitled ‘A Bug’s Life at the Heart’ – was organised by cardiothoracic surgeons Shyam Kolvekar and John Yap and clinical microbiologists Professor Ali Zumla and Dr Bruce Macrae.  Professor Chris McGregor, director of surgery, who chaired the meeting described infection control and infectious diseases of the heart and lungs as a ‘challenge for us all’.
 
Speaking before the seminar, Professor Ali Zumla said: “Daily microbiology consultant-led ward rounds, coupled with close working relationship with colleagues, ensure that appropriate antibiotics are given to patients at the right dosage and for the correct duration. This also reduces the risk of development of antibiotic resistant bacteria”.
 
Research conducted at the Heart Hospital into 68 patients with infected heart valves (endocarditis) used new molecular technology to analyse the DNA of bacteria and fungi from damaged heart valve tissue, and rapidly identify which particular micro-organism was causing the disease. This enables appropriate, specific antibiotic treatment to be given to patients at risk of heart failure and stroke if not treated quickly.   The research was undertaken by Mr John Yap, cardiothoracic surgery, Dr Steve Morris-Jones, consultant microbiologist, Professor Robert Miller, consultant in respiratory medicine, and Professor Ali Zumla, consultant infectious diseases physician.
 
Professor Zumla said: “The novel technique, rtPCR, enables us to identify over 50 different types of micro organisms from one tissue sample in just a few hours. Early detection improves treatment success rates and prevents further complications. This also has the potential of reducing duration of inpatient hospital stay, thus lowering costs. “
 
Professor Rob Miller, Dr Daniel Marks, medical registrar, Mr David Lawrence, cardiothoracic surgeon, and Professor Zumla conducted a 10 year retrospective study of 406 patients with pus in the chest cavity (empyema) who had been referred to the Heart Hospital for surgery. 39 of these patients had TB, proving that TB is an important cause of lung disease in London.
 
Dr Justin O’Grady, a postdoctoral scientist, described a new sputum sample test which can diagnose TB within two hours.  The usefulness of the test for patients with infection of the lungs and the chest cavity is to be evaluated at the Heart Hospital.
 
There was also discussion on research into minimising the risk of skin surface infections after surgery for implanting pacemakers.  The effectiveness of a new type of antiseptic skin solution is currently being monitored,
 
The research work is part-funded by the UCLH/UCL Comprehensive Biomedical Research Centre.
 
Clinical director Dr Clare Dollery described the seminar as a “perfect example” of how close collaboration between clinicians and researchers can improve the quality of patient care.

 

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