AN award-winning scientist who hails from Burnham has led the research on a groundbreaking scientific discovery which could help keep superbugs at bay.

Dr Richard Martin, 42, who is a lecturer at Aston University in Birmingham, was team leader on a project to develop a dissolvable ‘bioactive’ glass which can kill off infection-causing bacteria.

Richard was born in Burnham and lived in Brickwall Close.

He also went to school at St Peter’s High School – now Ormiston Rivers Academy.

“I liked Burnham, it was a lovely place,” he said.

“It was nice living by the river and playing rugby with the local lot.

“It’s a shame it didn’t have a university.”

Richard moved away from Burnham when he was 18 to study physics at university.

The findings from his latest three to four-year study has “significant implications”, offering the possibility of cheap implants and coatings to stop common germs multiplying.

The researchers used a centuries-old technique to make glass laced with cobalt in a furnace heated to more than 1,000°C before being rapidly cooled and ground into fine powder.

At the highest concentration, the glass proved extremely effective against strains of E.coli, C.albicans and S.aureus.

Avoiding the need for antibiotics, it is also thought the glass could be effective against drug-resistant superbugs.

Dr Martin said: “We have tried other materials such as calcium and phosphorus which make up the building blocks of bone.

“What we have found with cobalt is that it helps in forming blood vessels which are important for recovery.

“Once an infection has had time to establish itself it is much harder to treat, because complex bacterial biofilms start to form which are much tougher to tackle.

“With the rise of anti-microbial resistance, these glasses have the potential to radically transform how we guard against common hospital infections, because if we can stop the bacteria from multiplying it negates the need for heavy doses of antibiotics.

“This would be good news for patients, who would be at a much-reduced risk of contracting a potentially life-threatening infection during a hospital stay but also good for healthcare systems, which could make more judicious use of antibiotics and prevent costly unplanned hospital stays.

“The process now is that we’re trying to improve the functionality of the controlled release.”

Although making bioactive glasses was a known method, this is the first study to show that cobalt-infused glasses are effective in fighting specific microbes.

The technology could be used in biodegradable filling agents directly at the site of surgery or in catheters to combat urinary tract infections and blood poisoning.