Superbug boost lifts Bioquell shares

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Shares in Bioquell, the UK biotech firm, soared more than 19 per cent yesterday as the company announced new research demonstrating the ability of its latest product to sterilise against "superbugs" in hospitals.

Shares in Bioquell, the UK biotech firm, soared more than 19 per cent yesterday as the company announced new research demonstrating the ability of its latest product to sterilise against "superbugs" in hospitals.

Nick Adams, the chief executive, said the research was likely to open the door to a flood of new business in the UK, Europe and the US, where thousands of hospitals face the constant threat of bugs such as MRSA.

Bioquell's study, written in conjunction with St Thomas's Hospital and King's College in London, found that MRSA, previously thought to be unable to survive outside the body for more than a few hours, can incubate on dry surfaces such as remote control handsets for longer. Bioquell's system pumps hydrogen peroxide vapour into a room, checks it is distributed evenly, then converts the gas into water and oxygen.

The paper said that Bioquell's technique could eliminate 99 per cent of MRSA in infected areas while traditional cleaning techniques could eliminate about 33 per cent.

"We believe the results are of paramount importance in combating the increasing superbug problem in hospitals," Mr Adams said. "Although handwashing remains an important part of the fight, standard cleaning does not appear to be as effective as Bioquell's technology.

"There are 5,000 hospitals across the US and an equivalent number in Europe which could use this technology. Do the maths and you'll see the possible market for our product is very large."

Bioquell's shares have soared more than 100 per cent over the past year, and more than 70 per cent since the start of 2004. Yesterday, they closed up 31p at 191p, the company's biggest percentage gain since October 2001, valuing it at £75m.

Gary French, a professor of microbiology at St Thomas' Hospital, said: "It represents a first stage of research into the possible use of hydrogen peroxide as a decontamination method in the hospital environment. The research has demonstrated that used in certain situations, for example where we can seal off a side-room which has been occupied by a patient with MRSA, this technique is extremely effective in removing MRSA from equipment and surfaces.

"The next - and very important - step is to understand the impact that removing MRSA from the environment might have on patient infection rates."

Mr Adams said Bioquell's technology was being tested by the American company Batelle on behalf of the US government to determine its efficiency in eliminating anthrax. Bioquell says it has carried out its own tests, and is confident the product will perform well. Successful results will help it in its campaign to persuade the UK and US governments to buy it as protection against bio-terrorism attacks.

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