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News

Hope that MRSA spread can be beaten by vaccination

Society For General Microbiology : 17 June, 2006  (New Product)
Superbugs stuck in the noses of patients, visitors and staff could be causing the spread of the feared multiple antibiotic resistant Staphylococcus aureus or MRSA in hospitals, scientists heard at the Society for General Microbiology's 158th Meeting at the University of Warwick, UK.
Superbugs stuck in the noses of patients, visitors and staff could be causing the spread of the feared multiple antibiotic resistant Staphylococcus aureus or MRSA in hospitals, scientists heard at the Society for General Microbiology's 158th Meeting at the University of Warwick, UK.

One in five people carries a permanent dose of the common bacterium S. aureus in their noses and another three in five people have it sometimes. The bacteria lurk in nasal passages until they get a chance to attack our bodies through broken skin, ulcers, cuts and other accidents, or a surgical operation.

'Once we realised how dangerous these bacteria carried in our noses are, and how many people are affected, we tried to find out why the bacteria are so successful at sticking to nasal tissues,' says Professor Tim Foster, from the Moyne Institute of Preventative Medicine at Trinity College, Dublin. 'If we can stop the bacteria sticking, we can reduce the risk of infection'.

'We discovered that a protein on the surface of S. aureus called 'clumping factor B' allows the bacteria to stick to skin cells in our noses,' says Prof Foster. 'All skin cells contain a hard substance called keratin, the same thing which makes our hands feel rough and horny, and the clumping factor binds itself to a section of the keratin'.

The scientists showed that clumping factor B is important for bacteria to colonise the noses of experimental mice. Then Prof Foster's team showed that vaccinating the mice with variations and extracts from clumping factor B could strongly reduce the amount of bacteria in their noses, suggesting that a similar approach could work in people.

'This would give us a non-antibiotic method of preventing hospital staff and patients from carrying the bacteria in their noses, or at least reducing the amounts of bacteria they can spread,' says Prof Tim Foster. 'Vaccination could be an important weapon in the fight against the spread of MRSA'.
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