January 17, 2011

MRSA Vaccine in the Works

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) causes nearly 500,000 hospitalizations and 19,000 deaths a year in the United States. Scientists are now a step closer to developing a vaccine to prevent life-threatening MRSA infections after bone and joint surgery.

Previous research hasn't produced a viable option for patients because of the inability to identify an agent that can break through the deadly bacteria's unique armor. Orthopedic scientists at the University of Rochester Medical Center discovered an antibody that goes beyond the bacteria's surface and stops MRSA from growing in mice and cell cultures.

Staph infection is the leading cause of osteomyelitis, which is a serious bacterial infection of the bone. Up to half of these infections are due to MRSA, a particular strain of staph known as a "superbug" because of its antibiotic resistance. Management of MRSA infections due to bone and joint surgery is very challenging, and therefore, a vaccine to prevent the infection is badly needed, according to the researchers.

It is hard to pin down the source of most post-surgical MRSA infections, but the health and financial consequences are severe. Hospital stays can be grueling, and treatment involves joint replacement and painful washing and draining.

"It's essential that we have mechanisms in place to prevent this awful infection," Regis O'Keefe, chief of Orthopaedics at URMC and an expert in the treatment of MRSA, was quoted as saying. "We are very excited about our vaccine research. It'll have a phenomenal impact on individuals locally and across the country if we are successful."

"A vaccine in humans would probably not be a foolproof approach to preventing infection 100 percent of the time," Edward M. Schwarz, Ph.D., lead author of the study and professor of Orthopaedics and associate director of the URMC Center for Musculoskeletal Research, was quoted as saying. "However, even if we could reduce the risk of MRSA by 35 percent, that would be an enormous improvement in the field."

SOURCE: The ORS Annual Meeting held in Long Beach, California, January 16, 2011