But an estimated half of all Americans have Staph bacteria living in their noses, and not every cardiac implant patient develops an infection. So why do some strains of these bacteria cause infection while others remain dormant?
The researchers discovered that Staph surface proteins containing three genetic variants, or single-nucleotide polymorphisms, formed stronger bonds with the human proteins than did Staph proteins without those variants. The presence of these genetic variants was associated with the strains of bacteria that had infected implanted cardiac devices.
The finding is a first step toward preventing the bacteria from bonding to the devices. Though many scientists are trying to develop materials that repel bacteria, these researchers wonder if there might be another way to work around the bacteria's manipulative behavior.
"It will be useful to explore this in more detail and see if we can understand the basic science behind how these bonds form, and why they form. Perhaps then we can exploit some fundamental force law," said Lower, who also has a faculty appointment in the School of Environment and Natural Resources.
Lower, a scientist with a background in geology, physics and biology, has collaborated for a decade with Vance Fowler, an associate professor of medicine at Duke's Medical Center and the study's co-lead author. Fowler, who specializes in infectious diseases, has assembled a rare library of hundreds of Staphylococcus aureus isolates collected from patients. Lower specializes in atomic-force microscopy and molecular dynamics simulations to explore molecular-level relationships between inanimate surfaces and living microorganis
|Contact: Steven Lower|
Ohio State University