Scientists from the University of Bath have shown that MRSA infects and replicates in a species of amoeba, called Acanthamoeba polyphaga, which is ubiquitous in the environment and can be found on inanimate objects such as vases, sinks and walls.
As amoeba produce cysts to help them spread, this could mean that MRSA maybe able to be 'blown in the wind' between different locations.
Further evidence from research on other pathogens suggests that by infecting amoeba first, MRSA may emerge more virulent and more resistant to antibiotics when it infects humans.
"Infection control policies for hospitals should recognise the role played by amoeba in the survival of MRSA, and evaluate control procedures accordingly," said Professor Mike Brown from the Department of Pharmacy and Pharmacology at the University of Bath.
"Until now this source of MRSA has been totally unrecognised. This is a non-patient source of replication and given that amoeba and other protozoa are ubiquitous, including in hospitals, they are likely to contribute to the persistence of MRSA in the hospital environment".
"Adding to the concern is that amoebal cysts have been shown to trap pathogens and could potentially be dispersed widely by air currents, especially when they are dry.
"Replication of MRSA in amoeba and other protozoa raises several important concerns for hospital hygiene."
In laboratory tests, the researchers found that within 24 hours of its introduction, MRSA had infected around 50 per cent of the amoeba in the sample, with 2 per cent heavily infected throughout their cellular content.
Evidence with other pathogens suggests that pathogens that emerge from amoeba are more resist
Source:University of Bath