October 14, 2011
Toxin Could Help Immune System Beat Superbugs
Researchers said on Thursday that they have discovered a toxin that could help a body's immune system beat superbugs.
The toxin, SElX, is made by 95 percent of Staphylococcus aureus bacteria. It is released by Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), which leads the body's immune system to go into overdrive and damage healthy cells.
SElX belongs to a family of toxins known as super antigens that can invoke an extreme immune response.
The research looked at a strain of MRSA known as USA300 that can cause severe infections in healthy individuals.
"If we can find ways to target this toxin, we can stop it from triggering an over-reaction of the body's immune system and prevent severe infections," Dr. Ross Fitzgerald, from the Roslin Institute at the University of Edinburgh, said in a press release.
Superbugs account for an estimated $3.2 billion each year in health care costs in the U.S.
Gill Wilson, of The Roslin Institute and first author on the paper, said in a press release: "MRSA continues to be a global problem. This research could help us find a new way to target the infection."
The research was funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, the National Institutes of Health, USA, the US Department of Agriculture and Pfizer Animal Health.
The study was published in the journal PLoS Pathogens on Thursday.
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