London: Scientists seem to have cracked the secret of MRSA superbug`s resistance, potentially opening the way for improved drugs to fight infections.
The superbug kills hundreds of patients every year. But the problem is not limited to the hospital wards, with a more deadly strain on the loose outside, breeding in crowded gyms, classrooms and nurseries.
The research centres around one of the tricks that MRSA superbug employs to outwit antibiotics, the journal Science reports.
Many antibiotics work by binding to an internal `factory` that pumps out the proteins that the bacteria need to survive. This interferes with protein production and the bugs die, according to the Daily Mail.
But some strains of MRSA carry a gene called Cfr, which stops antibiotics from attaching to the `factory` - and also allows it to keep pumping out proteins. The superbug is resistant to seven classes of antibiotics.
Cfr is made by a mobile gene that can move easily between different species of bacteria.
Scientists found that it passed from Staphylococcus sciuri, which normally only infects animals, to the human bug Staphylococcus aureus.
Staphylococcus aureus commonly lives in the nose and on the skin without causing harm. But it can be highly dangerous when it mutates into its resistant cousin MRSA.
Squire Booker, from Pennsylvania State University, US, who led the research, said: "We now have a very clear chemical picture of a very clever mechanism for antibiotic resistance that some bacteria have evolved.
"Because we know the specific mechanism by which bacterial cells evade several classes of antibiotics, we can begin to think about how to disrupt the process so that standard antibiotics can do their jobs," concluded Booker.