Doctors in the U.K. have used a special protein to defeat antibiotic-resistant bacterial strains.
Superbugs, especially those like MRSA, have been receiving plenty of attention both in the media and laboratories across the world. These drug-resistant bacteria are a massive health issue, and MRSA alone causes 11,285 related deaths each year, per figures from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While CNN reported that rates of invasive MRSA have dropped in recent years – tumbling 31 percent between 2005 and 2011 – the problem rages on. As such, several new breakthroughs have been made into further combating MRSA and similar superbugs.
One such development, detailed in a report in the journal Nature, found that the human nose contains a powerful antibiotic compound. Now, another such innovation, courtesy of a team from the U.K.’s University of Sheffield, could prevent bacterial skin infections.
A new kind of weapon
As detailed in a new study in the journal PLOS One, the Sheffield scientists have created a new treatment for bedsores and ulcers that works even against antibiotic-resistant bacteria. This could prove especially useful to the millions of patients worldwide who are treated each year for these skin infections. Between 2001 and 2003, there were 11.6 million such hospitalizations, according to a 2006 report in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases.
The treatment works by taking advantage of a key strategy used by the bacteria. To infect the host’s skin, they latch directly onto the cells, creating a powerful bond that can’t even be broken by most traditional antibacterial drugs. However, the Sheffield team found that by using the protein tetraspanin, they could break down these bonds and quickly remove the bacteria. According to the Atlas of Genetics and Cytogenetics, tetraspanin is found within human cells and is a scaffolding protein used in tissue growth.
To test the tetraspanin protein, the team used 3D tissue models, which can behave just like real skin. The protein not only worked, but it doesn’t actually destroy the bacteria with antibiotics, which will ensure these bugs don’t eventually develop some form of resistance.
In an accompanying press release, lead author Dr. Pete Monk said that this was a huge step in combating antibiotic-resistance in general. Not only will this help patients with skin infections, but the use of tetraspanin would also aid with subsequent research into defeating the scourge of MRSA and other strains.
Monk added that he and the rest of his team hope to move into clinical trials no later than 2021, with the aim of one day marketing either a tetraspanin dress or some kind of cream.
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