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New HCAI shows 'remarkable resistance'

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Scientists have sequenced the genome of an emerging hospital-associated infection that forms ‘biofilms’ on catheters and ventilator tubes.

Researchers from the Wellcome Sanger Institute and Bristol University have decoded the genetic make-up of the bacterium Stenotrophomonas maltophilia – more commonly known as Steno – which they say has a ‘remarkable capacity for drug resistance’.

Pan-resistant Steno infections are at least as hard to treat as MRSA and Clostridium difficile, they write in a forthcoming edition of Genome Biology. There are around 1,000 reports of Steno blood poisoning in the UK each year, they add, with a mortality rate of 30%.

Steno flourishes in moist environments, such as around taps, and can get into the body via sticky biofilms that form on catheters and ventilation tubes, which have been left in place for a long time, such as in critical care.

Lead author Lisa Crossman from the Sanger Institute said: ‘The genome sequence should help us to combat these properties. For example, if we know which proteins cause it to stick to surfaces, we could try to develop biochemical compounds that interfere with this interaction.

‘If we understand its antibiotic resistance mechanisms, we might be able to design inhibitors that block them,’ she said.

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