In a speech during last month's National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) conference in Birmingham, UK Health Secretary John Reid said that three new products had been identified that could potentially help in the fight against methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in National Health Service (NHS) hospitals. The products were the first to be identified by the new Rapid Review panel set up to look at new equipment, materials and other products that can help NHS staff improve hospital cleanliness, hygiene and infection control.

The three products identified by the Rapid Review panel as having potential value in the battle against MRSA are:

Silver-coated hydrogel catheters where the silver alloy used to coat the catheters reduces urinary tract infections.
Bioquell decontamination systems that use a line of hydrogen peroxide vapor systems to decontaminate hospital rooms.
The Ebiox line of hand hygiene products that use non-alcohol-based gel for hand cleaning.

Referring to the identification of the new products as "the latest step in our campaign to improve cleanliness and lower infection rates," Reid said: "Lots of claims have been made for all types of products, but the NHS needs to know what works. That's why I asked top government scientists to investigate all claims, however odd they seem at first. If they can help in the battle with the ever-changing MRSA bug, then we want to know [about them]."

The NICE panel concluded that Bioquell and Ebiox still are subject to further evaluation in an NHS clinical setting, but the silver-coated hydrogel catheters could be introduced into NHS clinical practice following peer-reviewed trials and economic appraisal.

The panel also looked at four other products, but found that they either were unlikely to be of benefit or required more research and development before their usefulness could be properly appraised.

Reid in November announced a new objective to "dramatically reduce" MRSA bloodstream infections in NHS hospitals by March 2008.

Radiation-processing industry group forms

The International Irradiation Association (iiA; Swindon, UK) has been established as a new worldwide association representing the interests of members of the industrial irradiation industry. The iiA was established to serve as a global hub for the collection and dissemination of information on commercial radiation processing, and to facilitate networking and dialog among its members on issues of importance to the industry.

Association organizers note that industrial irradiation is used to sterilize a significant proportion of the world's single-use medical devices, such as syringes, catheters, bandages and surgical gloves. Ionizing radiation also is used to reduce the microbial burden in a wide range of industrial, consumer and selected food products, and in the enhancement of physical properties of plastics used in industry.

The association's board of directors is comprised of senior executives from many of the major companies in the industry, including Isotron, MDS Nordion, Reviss Services, Sterigenics and Steris Isomedix Services. Those and other member companies represent a wide variety of industries from contract sterilization providers to medical device manufacturers to irradiation technology and equipment vendors.

"The iiA will serve as a 'one-stop-shop' for information pertaining to the industrial application of ionizing radiation," says John Masefield, executive advisor for Steris Isomedix Services and chairman of the newly established association.

Mark Botting, who has extensive experience in the radiation processing industry, has been named association manager. Isotron, where he has worked for seven years in a variety of sales and marketing roles, is making Botting's time available to fill that role.

Objectives of the iiA include the gathering and dissemination of current, science-based data, legislative and regulatory events and market developments that affect the industry. The association also will work to provide educational materials and will promote member networking.

It will work closely with related associations such as the Gamma Industry Processing Alliance, the Food Irradiation Processing Alliance, European Coalition for Food Irradiation and the UK Gamma and Electron Beam Panel.

Prostate cancer brachytherapy database

A paper describing the creation of a multi-center database of 1,175 patients was published in a recent issue of the European Journal of Urology. The collaboration is aimed at examining European trends in the management of prostate cancer with brachytherapy.

Lead author Stephen Langley, consultant urologist at St. Luke's Cancer Center (Guildford, UK), said, "a consistent approach to patient selection has allowed us to pool our data and increase the significance of any results we see. It is clear that the prostate brachytherapy approach adopted by the majority of centers in Europe lends itself to the collection and publication of data on a large number of patients."

With harmonized data on 1,175 patients secured, Langley said analysis of clinical outcomes is now possible and will be the subject of future publications.

"This is an excellent piece of research, one that exemplifies the multidisciplinary approach to the management of prostate cancer typically seen in Europe," said Elizabeth Usher, international vice president and general manager at Oncura (Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania). "Oncura is proud to be associated with this project, and we hope that in time more centers will be able to add their data and contribute to the wealth of excellent clinical data that supports the use of [the company's] RAPID Strand in Europe."

Oncura was created through the merger of Amersham plc's (Little Chalfont, UK) brachytherapy business and Galil Medical Ltd.'s (Yokneam, Israel) urology business. The company's international business is operated from its UK subsidiary.

Amersham now is part of GE Healthcare, with headquarters in Chalfont St. Giles, UK.

CeMines International-Europe is opened

CeMines (Golden, Colorado), a life sciences company specializing in molecular R&D of minimally invasive diagnostic tests and targeted therapeutics for cancer, reported establishment of its newest operating division: CeMines International Inc.

CeMines also reported that Kaia Palm, PhD, is returning to the company as executive director of clinical development, CeMines International-Europe (Tallin, Estonia). In 2000, Palm, along with Toomas Neuman, PhD, CeMines' chief scientific officer, directed vital cancer research and differentiated processes. Their ideas, the company said, "were integral to early accomplishments, including development of novel intellectual property and protocols for CeMines Molecular FingerPrinting, a patent-pending bioinformatics process for identification and profiling of multiple cancer types."

SynX gets European patent for stroke test

Nanogen (San Diego) said its SynX (Toronto) subsidiary has been issued European Patent No. 1155325, "Method for Diagnosing and Distinguishing Stroke," by the European Patent Office.

The patent relates to a diagnostic kit and method of measuring the presence of both an ischemic marker and a brain endothelial cell membrane protein to indicate that a patient has suffered a stroke and, if so, whether it was an ischemic or hemorrhagic cerebral event. SynX said that by measuring the presence of an ischemic marker protein such as a myelin basic protein, S100 protein, neuronal specific enolase, or similar molecules, and a brain endothelial membrane protein such as thrombomodulin or a similar molecule, a physician can determine the occurrence of a stroke.

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