Biotech Updates

Scientists Target a Gene to Stop MRSA's Virulence

April 27, 2012

Researchers from the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in Maryland reported that they have pinpointed the gene that makes some strains of an antibiotic-resistant bacterium more virulent and that the gene is becoming more prevalent.

Molecular microbiologist Michael Otto and team studied the molecular basis of virulence of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). They focused on a rare genetic element in a strain of MRSA called ST239, which is widespread in Asia. The results of their investigation showed that one reason of the virulence is that the gene sasX, which codes for a protein anchored on the surface of S. aureus, is spreading to other strains. The gene can jump from one strain to another, aside from being passed down through the generations. The team also found out that sasX-carrying bacteria aggregate strongly. They believe that when the bacteria stick together, it is hard for white blood cells to ingest the bacteria and kill them.

By knowing the characteristics of the most virulent strains of MRSA, the researchers will be able to develop vaccines to stop the bug.

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