Preventing deadly Salmonella outbreak in hospitals – a £2.5m solution?

The pilot will involve a pilot based at UCLH in London and others in Birmingham, Manchester and Ipswich, that will see acute patient intakes monitored for the new bacteria The NHS is set to…

Preventing deadly Salmonella outbreak in hospitals - a £2.5m solution?

The pilot will involve a pilot based at UCLH in London and others in Birmingham, Manchester and Ipswich, that will see acute patient intakes monitored for the new bacteria

The NHS is set to trial an improved air quality system in hospitals that can wipe out dangerous salmonella in future following a high-profile outbreak at UCLH in London this summer.

The £2.5m project aims to cut the rates of blood poisoning caused by Salmonella Enteritidis (SE) in hospitals, in a move that could ultimately save lives. Salmonella bacteria can trigger salmonellosis, a serious, sometimes life-threatening disease that can cause severe stomach pains, vomiting and cramps. Se could cause kidney failure and even kidney failure if it is left untreated.

Now, the government is backing a pilot project that could see hospital air purifiers do the hard work of disarming the harmful bugs, which can easily spread among patients.

A new design to filter out and kill germs from the air inside hospitals would cost less than £300, according to Professor Susan Hill, director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine’s Imperial College National Immunity Research Centre. She hopes the project will take place over the next year and a half and will involve a pilot based at UCLH in London and others in Birmingham, Manchester and Ipswich, with acute patient intakes monitored for the new bacteria.

“The prevalence of SE in hospitals is increasing and it’s driven by antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Currently, we have air purifiers in hospitals – with one in every ward in hospitals – and a large number of workers including people in the cleaning services. What we need is a system that changes to purify the air throughout hospitals,” she said.

The pilot will be led by UCLH and will include four hospitals and 45 clinical staff, where the source of the bacteria will be found by staff.

Hill also hopes that research funded by the NHS to identify the type of bacteria that causes SE, and how to combat it, will also go some way to finding a cure. It is hoped that research that has identified a new type of bacteria resistant to one of the active ingredients in antibiotics could then be used in other areas of research, including Salmonella bacterium.

“The prevalence of SE and the rate of infection is doubling every 10 years. The reason that we need to develop new technology like this is to look at new treatments for Salmonella. That’s the challenge, it’s not the present challenge. The present challenge is that there’s an ongoing and growing epidemic of SE in hospitals. So, one of the goals of this is to have a controlled pilot project where we can develop new technologies to put in hospitals, where we can systematically test and evaluate them. If they prove to be useful in the battle against SE, then we can scale them up and use them in real lives,” she said.

Sara Hiom, director of Health Protection for Public Health England, which is funding the pilot along with the National Institute for Health Research, said: “We’re pleased that the NHS and Imperial College London are collaborating to develop and test ways to stop Salmonella Enteritidis spreading in hospitals. Salmonella bacteria can cause both short and long-term complications. Combating it in hospitals is particularly important and this project will provide some insights into how we can do that effectively.

“We’re investing in ambitious projects such as this one to help keep infections to a minimum and support patient care as well as ensure we’re better at stopping harmful bacteria spreading. This project will help us better understand Salmonella Enteritidis and help us in developing new therapies that can be used in hospitals and in the community.”

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