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News

Risk of blood poisoning rises as medical treatment improves

Society For General Microbiology : 07 April, 2003  (Company News)
Living longer and better medical treatments such as organ transplants and cancer therapy are all paradoxically increasing our risk of blood poisoning, according to experts in bacterial infections speaking at the Society for General Microbiology's Spring Meeting in Edinburg.
Living longer and better medical treatments such as organ transplants and cancer therapy are all paradoxically increasing our risk of blood poisoning, according to experts in bacterial infections speaking at the Society for General Microbiology's Spring Meeting in Edinburg.

'The two commonest causes of blood poisoning are bacteria called Escherichia coli from the urinary tract, and Staphylococcus aureus carried on the skin or from a hospital drip,' says Professor Hilary Humphreys from Beaumont Hospital, Dublin. 'These bacterial infections are becoming more common as we use more aggressive treatments for cancer, and implant more artificial devices such as heart pacemakers or hip and knee replacements which allow a route into the body.'

Many of these bacteria are resistant to common antibiotics because the patients were already being treated with antibiotics for other infections. Despite the best care available up to one in five patients who contract this type of blood poisoning will die.

'In the future we are likely to see improvements in earlier diagnosis, which will help us start treating these infections quickly with the right antibiotics. We may also see medical science developing artificial devices which incorporate antimicrobial features,' says Professor Humphreys.

The challenge for doctors now is to improve methods of detection of these life threatening infections and to start treatments even before the full laboratory results are available. Current medical devices may need to be modified so that patients are less likely to become infected.
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