Revolutionary new method stops deadly ‘superbugs’ in its tracks

Washington: In a new study, researchers claim to have developed a new and faster method to track major infection-causing “superbugs”, which could be a major key in preventing the spread of deadly infections.

Many newly discovered genes such as KPC (Klebsiella pneumoniae carbapenemase) and NDM (New Delhi metallo-betalactamase) have experts on alert due to a number of reasons including the ease with which they can transfer to highly infectious bacteria like cholera.

“When you’re in a race against time to halt the spread of these life-threatening infections, the traditional methods of detection and tracking are very difficult and frankly take too long,” Newswise quoted Costi Sifri, principal investigator of the study as saying.

Researchers at the UVA Medical Center focus their study on KPC, a gene Sifri calls “perhaps the most important new resistance gene of the millennium.”

KPC has the ability to easily hitch a ride on movable genetic elements called plasmids that then spread between pathogens, making them highly infectious and deadly.

Through their new method, the researchers were able to quickly track the movement of plasmids carrying KPC between bacteria and understand the spread of KPC bacteria at the molecular level.

While traditional methods take several weeks or months to do this analysis and can only be performed in specialized research laboratories, the method developed by the UVA team takes only one to two days and can be performed by most modern microbiology laboratories.

“We developed and successfully used a novel technique to rapidly track the gene’s movement between patients and bacteria,” Amy Mathers, the lead author, said.

“We were able to show that all cases in a cluster of hospital infections could be traced back to a single patient. Most cases were linked by movement of the KPC gene between different bacteria,” she added.

The study has been recently published in the online journal mBio.


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