Engaging the Public in Modernising Medical Microbiology Through Art
Anna Dumitriu is currently a Leverhulme Artist in Residence for the UKCRC (MMM) Modernising Medical Microbiology Consortium. As part of her residency she is shadowing researchers in this consortium that work with M. tuberculosis, S. aureus (and its drug resistant form MRSA), Norovirus and C. difficile. The aim of her work is to communicate the UKCRC MMM consortium aims and research to the general public through the format of art.
Anna has created a "The MRSA Quilt" that tells the story of MRSA (Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus) research and diagnosis through a textile work stained with MRSA bacteria (grown on chromogenic agar) as it undergoes a number of commonly used tests. The final work has been autoclaved and made safe. It has been made in collaboration with Dr John Paul, Dr James Price and Rosie Sedgwick.
Why create a MRSA quilt?
There is huge gap between the public’s understanding of the issue of hospital acquired pathogens or ‘superbugs’ as the press describe them. MRSA is a mutated form of Staphylococcus aureus which is part of our normal bacterial flora and thought to be carried by around 25% of the population (this figure could potentially be much higher as it may simply be that our testing methods are flawed). MRSA has acquired genes which mean that it can withstand treatment with Methicillin based antibiotics. However Vancomycin is usually still effective. MRSA is not only acquired from hospitals, there is also community acquired MRSA. In hospitals patients are more susceptible to infections if they are immune compromised or have operation woulds hence the risk of MRSA there. Patients are routinely tested. However transmission vectors (how the bug moves from person to person) are not properly understood and the Modernising Medical Microbiology Project is now using whole genome mapping of bacteria to try to understand far more about this important factor.
The spa gene (surface protein A gene) of the Staphylococcus aureus (non MRSA) found to be living in Dumitriu’s nose is: