Infectious bugs alter DNA to become resistant

Sydney: The `golden staph`, a group of common infectious bugs inhabiting our skin surface, becomes resistant to antibiotics by just making a small change in its DNA, exposing the seriously ill to additional risks.

Staphylococcus, or staph, can cause rashes and abscesses.

Timothy Stinear and Ben Howden, senior research fellows in microbiology and immunology at the University of Melbourne, have made the discovery. Golden staph develops resistance to the last-line antibiotic, vancomycin.

"We have applied the latest genome sequencing technology to show that staph can readily become vancomycin (antibiotic) resistant by acquiring a single mutation in its DNA," said Stinear, the journal Public Library of Science reports.

"When the bacteria mutate, they are reprogramming themselves, changing their cell walls to resist the action of our antibiotics," said Stinear, according to a Melbourne statement.

"Worryingly, this mutation also makes staph more resistant to another last-line antibiotic, daptomycin, even though this drug had never been used for treatment," said Howden.

"These last-line therapies are more toxic and cause additional side-effects in already compromised patients," added Howden.


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