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The superbug MRSA has been ravaging hospital wards for years, concerning doctors because it is resistant to methicillin, modern medicine’s most powerful antibiotic, and can be fatal.
One of the methods of slowing the progress of the bug is through pre-emptive isolation, but the test used for screening patients takes three days by which time it can be be too late to prevent the infection spreading to other patients or hospital workers.
But now, according to a report on NewScientist.com, scientists at Geneva University hospital have developed a new testing process that they claim reduces the average laboratory turnaround time to about 7.2 hours, a tenth of the time it took previously.
This will give doctors much more time to isolate infected patients and significantly reduce the spread of the the bug, tests have shown.
Currently, MRSA tests require bacteria to be swabbed from a patient’s nose and then cultured in a laboratory over a few days.
The new method tests for traces of the bacterium on patients’ skin and purifies the samples for MRSA microbes bu using charged MRSA-specific antibodies to capture any MRSA microbes in the sample. These are then separated from the sample by magnetic beads before undergoing a genetic analysis.
However, the test, which has been patented by the team, has not reduced spread in surgical wards, probably because medical staff have more close contact with patients and spread the bug from one patient to another.
Geneva University Hospitals: http://www.hug-ge.ch/
Cruising round corners
Drivers in North America are already accustomed to cruise control, where a car can be put on automatic pilot allowing the driver to take a back seat (no, not literally!) on those long straight segments of open highway.
But until now there hasn’t been a car that can safely follow the curve of the road without the intervention of the driver.
Japanese carmaker Honda say they will change all that with the March launch of the Honda Accord ADAS, a new self-driven car which can change gear and steer itself around bends.
The car’s auto-pilot capability is based on two main components: adaptive cruise control (ACC) and Lane Keep Assist System (LKAS).
ACC is a radar sensor placed behind the Honda badge at the front of the car which scans ahead to look out for other vehicles, reducing or increasing the car’s speed accordingly.
LKAS is a camera placed next to the rearview mirror which monitors the white lines along motorways and dual carriageways, using the information to control the car’s steering.
So far the autopilot function will only operate on multi-lane roads but Honda say that future ADAS models will be able to cope with all roads.
But the new model is no Herbie. Honda stress that the function is to allow the driver to rest on a long journey rather than replace them entirely. Drivers will need to remain in the driving seat and touch the steering wheel every ten seconds to show that they are still alert. As in current cruise control models any input from the driver will override the autopilot.
The Accord ADAS will hit showrooms in March retailing at £25,880 ($46,500). Honda say all their models will be ADAS-equipped by 2016.
Is it a plane? Is it a blimp? No, its Dynalifter.
The inventors of a new airship that uses helium to keep it afloat but has wings and lands like an aeroplane claim it could be the future of air transportation, carrying large cargos to far off places more efficiently than standard aircraft.
Dynalifter, designed by the founders of Ohio Airships and based on an abandoned project of reclusive aviation tycoon Howard Hughes, is a hybrid aircraft which resembles an airship with wings.
But its designers are emphatic that’s not a blimp, despite the fact that the 120 ft (37m) long two-seat two-engine prototype, which is being prepared for a test launch any day now, is filled with 16,500 cubic ft (470 cubic metres) of helium.
They say the gas is the only thing their invention has with the traditional airship - now associated with advertising and sightseeing - because it is a heavier-than-air aircraft with its weight carried by aerodynamic lift on the wings and hull, augmented by helium lift.
In addition, Dynalifter has an internal structure unique to aircraft, in which a central beam supported by cables from a tower, similar to the design of a cable-stay bridge.
The inventors believe this will allow the craft to carry much heavier loads than your average Zeppelin, while the weight of the craft will allow it to withstand gusts of wind. Dynalifter is also designed to land like a plane, meaning it needs no ground crew to tie it down.
The prototype is an eighth of the size intended for the commercial craft, which Ohio predict will be a more fuel-efficient alternative to current air freighters, especially in areas where infrastructure has deteriorated through natural disasters or armed conflict.
The designers say Dynalifter will be able to land on short runways with large cargo bays and will only use fuel for forward flight rather than the large quantities need by conventional aircraft to achieve lift off, prompting early interest from the US military.
Ohio Airships: http://www.dynalifter.com/