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Apr 05, 2012
 |  BC Innovations  |  Cover Story

MRSA sensitivity training

Researchers at Merck & Co. Inc. have identified targets in methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus that synergize with b-lactam antibiotic targets to restore antibiotic sensitivity.1 The findings suggest it may now be possible to use combinations of antibiotics to treat infections previously considered intractable.

Methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA) infections are the most frequent cause of skin and soft tissue infections seen in the emergency room in the U.S. In addition, MRSA accounts for about 20% of bloodstream infections in hospital settings.2

MRSA is unresponsive to common b-lactam antibiotics, including penicillin and imipenem, and can develop resistance to antibiotics of last resort such as vancomycin.

The basic mechanism of MRSA resistance to b-lactam antibiotics has been known for more than 20 years. S. aureus synthesizes a new bacterial wall by means of several enzymes, including transpeptidases in the penicillin binding protein (PBP) family. Over time, some strains have evolved PBPs such as penicillin binding protein 2A (PBP2A) that have a very low affinity for standard b-lactam antibiotics, rendering the bacteria resistant to these drugs.3,4 Efforts to target that mechanism have been stymied by the difficulty of designing compounds that bind PBP2A and are not degraded by other bacterial pathways.5

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