16 September 2014
Research at the University of Western Ontario have found that the most predominant strain of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) secretes an enzyme that degrades skin into compounds that are toxic to itself.
The research, published online in the Journal of Bacteriology, was based on a theory that the prominence of MRSA is caused by its ability to stay on human skin, which has been linked to a gene that makes it resistant to toxic polyamines.
Human skin should be an inhospitable environment for MRSA as sebum - a waxy or oily substance secreted by the sebaceous glands in the skin and produces triglycerides to stop it drying out - should deter it. It was also unknown why MRSA produces SAL2, which secretes fatty acids that prevent MRSA from growing.
In the study, the investigators engineered strains of CA-MRSA that could not make SAL2 lipase and analysed how it responded to triglycerides. They then compared the mutants' reaction to wildtype and found that the engineered strains grew.
"But in the case of the wildtype, the activity of SAL2 lipase produced high concentrations of fatty acids that inhibited bacterial growth," said corresponding author David Heinrichs.
Posted by Philip Briggs
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