A team of researchers has found a way to track different strains of the deadly bacteria Methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) as it spreads between people around the world.

The scientists, led by the UK’s Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, used high-throughput gene sequencing machines to find precise differences in the strains to see how they were related.

The technology allows researchers and public health officials to see how infections move from person to person and from hospital to hospital, an important step in tackling their spread.

Researchers conducted a study on 62 MRSA samples, 42 taken from hospitals in North and South America, Europe, Australia and 20 from a hospital in Thailand, according to Reuters.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control said superbug infections cost €900m ($1.31bn) a year in extra hospital time and €600m a year in lost productivity.

MRSA is one of a group of drug-resistant bacteria or superbugs that are a major problem in hospitals around the world.