At a glance: Media hail milestone in battle against MRSA

Is there a cure for MRSA, then?
Well, researchers think they may have found a way to fight the hospital superbug – methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). A company called e-Therapeutics last week declared that it had come across an existing drug that could destroy several of the proteins that are key to the bacteria’s survival.

What sort of coverage did that get?
It was pretty much blanket stuff, with nationals including The Times, The Guardian and Daily Express covering the news. Professor Malcolm Young, the company’s chief technical officer, was quoted in The Sun as calling the new treatment a ‘weapon of mass destruction’ for MRSA.

Sounds like Professor Young has a good ear for a soundbite?
Yes. Although he told PRWeek it was more of a ‘cluster bomb’ approach.

Not surprised. So had the company put out a press release?
Abchurch Communications, which handles media and investor relations for e-Therapeutics, wrote a release that it distributed nationally. Young then asked Mick Warwicker, head of press and comms at Newcastle University, to distribute the same release locally and regionally.

Let’s be clear – this is an existing drug?
It’s actually three compounds from the same chemical family. Rather tantalisingly, no brand name is being released, since it would dilute any commercial advantage. We do know that they are currently licenced for another condition. E-therapeutics discovered their anti-MRSA potential by systematically checking a huge computer database to examine the properties of drugs.

What happens next?
Clinical trials of e-Therapeutics’ new treatment – which goes under the rather cumbersome name ETS1153 at present – could begin as early as March. At the moment MRSA is treatable only with the generic antibiotic vancomycin, and some strains are developing resistance.

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