MRSA are no friendly bacteria.
Less well known as Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus, they kill tens of thousands each year. MRSA is a wily and resistant strain of a very common staphylococcus which usually does no harm. But if MRSA escapes from the nose or other cozy habitat into the blood where toxicity floods the body, little can be done except fight back with mostly ineffective medications and heaps of hope.
But now a new antibiotic has emerged. Right under our noses—indeed plucked from our nasal mucous, a large molecule aptly named lugdunin appears to be a potential warrior against lethal antibiotic-resistance.
Andreas Peschel and colleagues at the University of Tübingen in Germany reported on this novel finding in Nature on July 2, 2016:
- Lugdunin hails from Staphylococcus lugdunensis. Only about 9% of people who the researchers observed had the bacteria in their noses. But if they did, they were also six times less likely to harbor Staphylococcus aureus.
- When lugdunin was added to test tubes along with Staphylococcus aureus the bacteria never evolved resistance as they normally would. This nasal antibiotic appeared to be a potent competitor.
- The German researchers looked at 90 bacteria from the human nose; only Staphylococcus lugdunensis killed MRSA.
The microbial community is not so unlike human ones after all: competition and actual weapons to protect turf. Human microbiota can yield new antibiotics, a welcoming development in the fight against antibiotic resistance.
According to Anna Nowogrodzki writing in Nature journal online:
“The human microbiome has so far yielded only a few antibiotics, such as lactocillin, which comes from a vaginal bacterium. Soil bacteria are the typical source for new antibiotics.”
Some in the field worry however that tapping the body’s natural resources may tip scales in less helpful ways, upsetting a microbial balance which has evolved over millions of years. And here’s another flummoxing fact: the origin of this new star antibiotic can itself cause infections in other parts of the body.
Still, after witnessing the astounding success rate of fecal transplants in Clostridium difficile infiltration, one can propose that clarity may begin at home. Searching our home cooked microbial stew for solutions is a good start.
Practical guide to MRSA, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
Anyone can get MRSA on their body from contact with an infected wound or by sharing personal items, such as towels or razors, that have touched infected skin. MRSA infection risk can be increased when a person is in activities or places that involve crowding, skin-to-skin contact, and shared equipment or supplies. People including athletes, daycare and school students, military personnel in barracks, and those who recently received inpatient medical care are at higher risk.
There are the steps you can take to reduce your risk of MRSA infection:
Maintain good hand and body hygiene. Wash hands often, and clean your body regularly, especially after exercise.
Keep cuts, scrapes and wounds clean and covered until healed.
Avoid sharing personal items such as towels and razors.
Get care early if you think you might have an infection.