Scientists one step closer to developing vaccine for MRSA

Washington: Scientists at the University of Rochester Medical Center are one step closer to developing a vaccine for life threatening methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections following bone and joint surgery.

MRSA is a particular strain of staph known as a "superbug" because of its antibiotic resistance.

Edward M. Schwarz, professor of Orthopaedics and associate director of the URMC Center for Musculoskeletal Research, said that management of MRSA infections due to bone and joint surgery is very challenging and therefore a vaccine to prevent the infection is badly needed.

"We are very excited about our vaccine research. It`ll have a phenomenal impact on individuals locally and across the country if we are successful,” said Regis O`Keefe, chief of Orthopaedics at URMC and an expert in the treatment of MRSA.

Schwarz and his team hypothesized that the best way to attack staph aureus was to target the glucosaminidase (Gmd) protein contained in the deadly bug. Gmd is known to act as a zipper on the bacteria, opening the impenetrable armor (cell wall) during cell division.

In the absence of Gmd, staph aureus cannot replicate efficiently, dramatically reducing its ability to cause infections.

So finding an agent that inhibits bacterial growth and prevents the cell wall from closing during binary fission could destroy the bacteria.

The team also demonstrated exactly how the antibody works. Since MRSA is inclined to grow rapidly, as single cells, they sought an antigen that forced the bacteria cells to clump.

Second, researchers demonstrated that when mice were infused with the anti-Gmd antibody, and then exposed to MRSA, only about half of the mice developed the infection.

"A vaccine in humans would probably not be a foolproof approach to preventing infection 100 percent of the time. However, even if we could reduce the risk of MRSA by 35 percent, that would be an enormous improvement in the field,” said Schwarz.

The team will present their findings on Jan. 16, 2011, at the ORS annual meeting in Long Beach, Calif. (ANI)

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