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Nipping MRSA in the bud

ALBUQUERQUE, Dec. 4 (UPI) -- U.S. researchers say they are learning to stop methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus before it starts.

Jeff Brinker of the University of New Mexico and Sandia National Laboratories says the application of a simple protein can halt the switch of MRSA and other bacteria from a harmless to a virulent form. The control of such strains of MRSA has been a formidable problem in hospitals, Brinker says.

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Brinker research team's nonantibiotic approach may make it easier to treat staphylococci strains like MRSA that have become drug resistant.

"The good news is that by inhibiting the single cell's signaling molecules with a small protein, we were able to suppress any genetic reprogramming into the bacterium's more virulent form," Brinker said in a statement. "Our work clearly showed the strategy worked."

The findings, published in Nature Chemical Biology, shows the Staphylococcus aureus bacteria isolated in individual, self-assembled nanoscale compartments. Isolation of an individual bacterium previously had been achieved only computationally, leaving open questions of how a physically and chemically isolated bacterium would actually behave.

The study also demonstrates that it was the release of signaling peptides from a single cell that acted as a trigger to reprogram that same cell so that it released toxins.

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