Infections get the x-ray effect


The BBC has reported that Diamond Light, the UK's national synchrotron science facility is to become a world centre for studying the structure of viruses and bacteria that cause level 3 serious disease such as Aids and hepatitis and some types of flu.

By using intense X-rays scientists are able to see the shape of viruses and bacterium and get some insight into how they function. Recent examples of synchrotron based research are the development of anti-flu drug Tamiflu, and the structure of the Foot & Mouth virus which was successfully mapped on a synchrotron.

There is only one other facility in the world that studies level 3 diseases and that is based in the United States. This means that the UK will now be a major draw for scientists across the world and will be a boost to the UK scientific community.

Whilst some infections are getting a higher level of inspection, it is still the case that more common infections are frequently missed or misdiagnosed in both primary care and acute settings.

Many infections are easily identified through routine investigations such as blood tests. In some instances it may be the case that the investigations were simply not carried out. However, it is more often the case that the tests are carried out and the results are either incorrectly reported, misunderstood, filed without review or lost.

In some cases, failing to diagnose an infection can have catastrophic consequences such as amputation, brain damage and death.

Some common infections that are often missed or misdiagnosed are:
  • Meningitis and septicaemia which can result in deafness, amputation, or brain damage
  • Hospital acquired infections such as MRSA or Clostridium Difficile.
  • Community or Hospital acquired pneumonia
  • Septic arthritis
  • Infections that may have be caused by a perforation to an organ that was not recognised during surgery for example a perforated bowel, or damage to the common bile duct during gall bladder surgery

This article was written by Helen Donaghy, Medical Negligence Team.

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