Research to Improve Patient Care Takes Top Honors at National Conference

December 17, 2014

By Mercy's Madelynn Innes

Silver isn’t just for fine flatware. Life-saving medical devices and applications are among its varied uses. But some have concerns about bacteria’s ability to form silver resistance, similar to that of typical drug resistance. Over the last two years, a team of Mercy scientists have doggedly researched to find the answers.

For their achievements, Mercy Trauma Research, in collaboration with the Center for Biomedical and Life Sciences (CBLS) at Missouri State University, won top honors in October at a national research conference. After reviewing their extensive research, the Symposium on Advanced Wound Care announced work submitted by Mercy Senior Scientist Dr. Phillip Finley and a team of researchers won best overall research in the Laboratory Science category.

“I’m truly honored to represent Mercy Trauma Research and get to collaborate with amazing scientists across different disciplines,” Dr. Finley said. “This award is a testament to the caliber of research that can evolve from an open interdisciplinary team approach.” 

Silver’s antimicrobial and antifungal properties are especially useful in treating burns or chronic wounds, and the FDA has cleared many silver-based wound dressings that are commercially available. “The development of widespread silver resistance would have major consequences in caring for these patients,” Dr. Finley explained.

The study results showed out of the nearly 900 bacteria samples tested, only 33 carried silver resistant genes, and of those, only two were highly resistant to silver. “The results don’t necessarily support an acute threat of widespread silver resistance in clinical bacteria. However, this may stand as a warning that it’s possible and surveillance should be maintained,” added Rhy Norton, a lead scientist with CBLS. Work is under way to continue examining these bacteria on a molecular level. “We would really like to understand these microbes a little better and figure out the mechanism which makes them so unique,” Dr. Finley explained.

Undoubtedly, Dr. Finley and his colleagues will continue their research. In the meantime, this is Dr. Finley’s fourth 1st-place award as Principle Investigator in the last five years. As for this award, he added, “To have senior faculty in the field deem our work as the best is quite special. We have spent many years building a Trauma Research Program that could compete with university hospitals. Getting recognized for our efforts to improve patient care is a big step in that direction.”