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Could yoghurt save us from MRSA?

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Humble yoghurt could be a more effective defence against super bugs such as MRSA than all the antiseptics and antibiotics in the world, according to a researcher at University College London (UCL).

Professor Mark Spigelman, of UCL's Centre for Infectious Diseases and International Health, has published a discussion paper calling for more research into the potential probiotics have for guarding surgeons against dangerous bacteria. He wants a study set up in hospitals units where antibiotics would not be used, as a way of exploring alternative measures to combat the deadly MRSA super-bug.

He argues that inappropriate use of antibiotics is a major problem, in spite of our clearer understanding of how bacteria behave.

"Any student who has grown bacteria in a lab will know that they generally do not grow on top of one another. So when we wash our hands, we could actually be killing off harmless commensals to the extent that we leave space for other bacteria, such as MRSA strains, to settle."

He suggests that using probiotics or having surgeons dip their hands into a probiotic solution (after a thorough cleaning) might be a better approach. This way, the harmless bacteria would be able to colonise the skin, leaving no room for the baddies to grow.

"It must be remembered that after almost 40 years, MRSA has not become widespread except in hospitals where we use the most advanced antibiotics and most rigorous antiseptic measures. Why is this? More of the same does not seem to be working - new antibiotics and antibacterial soaps have not stopped MRSA.

"The idea may sound absurd, but I believe that a probiotic cleaning procedure is an avenue worth exploring," Professor Spigelman said. ®

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