Scientists in Germany discovered a new antibiotic right under our noses, literally. And this new antibiotic could kill methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, a dangerous infection-causing bacterium also known as MRSA.
Researchers from the University of Tübingen have discovered that the bacteria called Staphylococcus lugdunensis produces the new antibiotic.
MRSA commonly infects people in nursing homes, hospitals and other clinical settings, particularly the ones with compromised immune systems. It has evolved to become resistant to antibiotics, including the medicines used in the treatment of staph infections. MRSA infections are known to account for the deaths of approximately 20,000 people every year.
For years, researchers have been looking for effective ways on how to kill MRSA. According to University of Tübingen researcher Dr. Bernhard Krismer, there are existing estimates that suggest that in the coming decades, more people could die from antibiotic-resistant bacteria than cancer.
For the new study, the researchers analyzed nasal mucus samples from 37 healthy participants and cultured the bacteria with MRSA taken from each sample.
Lab tests showed that a compound called lugdunin, which is found in the bacteria Staphylococcus lugdunensis, prevented the MRSA from growing.
Using mice subjects, researchers found that the compound was capable of clearing staph infections. They noted the lugdunin was able to penetrate the tissue and act in the skin's deeper layers, which enabled it to clear the infection that is difficult to treat.
The team also analyzed mucus samples from 187 patients at a hospital. They found that nearly all 187 samples were populated by one of the two strains of Staphylococcus, but only one of the samples had two of the strains. Findings suggest that this could explain why some people appear to be susceptible to the infection caused by MRSA.
While both the lab and mice tests showed great promise for the new compound, researchers said that more studies are needed to confirm if lugdunin could be used in MRSA treatments or preventive measures.
"Normally antibiotics are formed only by soil bacteria and fungi. The notion that human microflora may also be a source of antimicrobial agents is a new discovery," said University of Tübingen professor, Andreas Peschel.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, studies showed that 33 percent of people have staph in their noses but are typically without illness. About two per 100 people could also be carrying MRSA.
The new study was released in the Nature journal on July 28.
Photo: Caitlin Regan | Flickr