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"Staph Cutbacks" -- The Discovery Files

The Discovery Files
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Researchers at the University of Illinois and UC San Diego have discovered a new compound that restores the health of mice infected with MRSA, an otherwise dangerous bacterial infection.

Credit: NSF/Karson Productions

Audio Transcript:

(Sound effect: Wall falling) Tear down that wall.

I'm Bob Karson with the discovery files--new advances in science and engineering from the National Science Foundation.

(Sound effect: battle sounds--artillery, planes) In the war against antibiotic-resistant infections, sometimes we run out of ammo. For example, there are some strains of tuberculosis that are completely drug-resistant. Since no drug works, you get it--you die. Gonorrhea--once easily cured by antibiotics--is becoming resistant to treatment. Staph infections take more lives in the U.S. every year than HIV/AIDS. That's why a new compound discovered by scientists at the University of Illinois and UC San Diego show so much promise. The compound takes a different tack to accomplish the same goal as antibiotics while reducing the resistance factor.

It works by targeting an enzyme not found in human cells, but necessary for bacterial survival--disrupting biosynthesis of the cell wall. (Sound effect: mice sounds) The team tested the compound on mice infected with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA. (Sound effect: mice cheer) Twenty out of twenty treated with the compound were cured. Of the mice not treated, none survived.

Even better, the same positive results were achieved against both antibiotic-resistant strains of the bacteria and regular ones. It'll take years of study to see if the compound will have the same effect on humans. If it works, I'd say we could be facing some real "staph cutbacks."

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