A hospital in London has developed a flat computer keyboard that it claims could help reduce incidences of methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), one of a number of hospital-acquired infections that kill 5,000 people each year in Britain.
MRSA, which is transmitted mainly by touch, is a specific strain of the staphylococcus aureus bacterium that has developed antibiotic resistance to most penicillins.
Research shows that as many as 25 percent of computer keyboards used in hospitals carry the MRSA super bug. Plastic keyboard covers are often used but these can be hard to clean.
The University College London Hospitals NHS Trust keyboard is flat and so easy to clean - and is coated in silicon to help ward off bacteria, reported the online edition of BBC News.
Researchers at the trust say cleaning the keyboards just twice a day cuts bacteria by 70 percent.
It makes it much quicker for nurses to clean them and nurses are responsible for cleaning keyboards in the clinical areas, it said. The trust is starting to install them and if they prove successful the rest of the NHS may follow.
The keyboard, which has an automatic reminder light to remind staff to clean them, is just one of a number of ideas NHS officials have been considering, including silver-coated catheters and a system of cleaning wards using hydrogen peroxide vapour to reduce the infection.
Peter Wilson, the consultant microbiologist who came up with the idea for the keyboards, said: "The numbers of keyboards are going to rise astronomically in the next few years.
Mark Enright, a leading researcher on superbugs from Imperial College London, said the best solution was to identify and isolate infected patients but that high bed-occupancy rates in the NHS made that difficult.
He believes the new keyboards could help. "What we have to do is try and interrupt the transmission of MRSA, which is mainly by touch."