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Novel approach strips staph of virulence
Date:2/14/2008

An international team of researchers supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has blocked staph infections in mice using a drug previously tested in clinical trials as a cholesterol-lowering agent. The novel approach, described in the February 14 online edition of Science, could offer a new direction for therapies against a bacterium thats becoming increasingly resistant to antibiotics.

By following their scientific instinct about a basic biological process, the researchers made a surprising discovery with important clinical implications, said NIH Director Elias A. Zerhouni, M.D. Although the results are still very preliminary, they offer a promising new lead for developing drugs to treat a very timely and medically important health concern.

This work was supported by three NIH components: the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

A pigment similar to the one that gives carrots their color turns Staphylococcus aureus (staph) golden. In the bacterium, this pigment acts as an antioxidant to block the reactive oxygen molecules the immune system uses to kill bacteria.

Researchers had speculated that blocking pigment formation in staph could restore the immune systems ability to thwart infection. While perusing a magazine on microbial research, Eric Oldfield, Ph.D., of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign read how in 2005 University of California, San Diego researchers knocked out a gene in staphs pigment-making pathway to create colorlessand less pathogenicbacteria.

I looked at the metabolic pathway and noticed that it was similar to the one for the production of cholesterol in humans, said Oldfield, senior author of the Science paper, who had spent decades studying this pathway. With numerous cholesterol-lowering drugs already on the market and in development
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Contact: Emily Carlson
carlsone@nigms.nih.gov
301-496-7301
NIH/National Institute of General Medical Sciences
Source:Eurekalert

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