14 Mar 2019

Crucial insights into how a ‘superbug’ can escape immune and antibiotic attack

Professor Anton Peleg with Dr Jhih-Hang Jiang and
Hsin-Hui Shen.

by Dr Jhih-Hang Jiang & Grace Williams, Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute

A multidisciplinary study led by Monash scientists has shown how one of the most important human superbugs, Staphylococcus aureus, can evade last-line antibiotics and the host immune system during a life-threatening infection. The findings uncover a novel strategy used by S. aureus (Golden staph), whereby it rapidly adapts its bacterial membrane to circumvent antibiotic and immune killing. These findings potentially point to a  new therapeutic target for this significant bacterial pathogen.

S. aureus can cause serious infection of almost any human tissue and mortality from treated infections is up to 35 per cent. It is estimated that around 7000 cases of S. aureus bloodstream infections occur in Australia each year, and about 25 per cent are caused by methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA). Without the ability to use the antibiotic methicillin, treatment of MRSA infection increasingly relies on last-line antibiotics. The World Health Organization (WHO) has listed MRSA as a ‘high-priority’ pathogen that urgently requires the development of new antimicrobial agents.

Professor Anton Peleg, from Monash University’s Biomedicine Discovery Institute (BDI) and Department of Infectious Diseases, Central Clinical School led the study, along with  postdoctoral research fellow Dr Jhih-Hang Jiang. The work, which was recently published in PNAS, was performed in close collaboration with other Monash researchers including Dr Hsin-Hui Shen at Monash BDI, and Professor Graham Lieschke at the Australian Regenerative Medicine Institute.

Read more on the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute blog.

Read the full paper in PNAS titled Antibiotic resistance and host immune evasion in Staphylococcus aureus mediated by a metabolic adaptation.

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