Magazine article Science News

The Nose Knows How to Fight Staph: New Type of Antibiotic Found in Human Nasal Secretions

Magazine article Science News

The Nose Knows How to Fight Staph: New Type of Antibiotic Found in Human Nasal Secretions

Article excerpt

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND -- The human nose harbors not only a deadly enemy --Staphylococcus aureus--but also its natural foe. Scientists have now isolated a compound from that foe that might combat MRSA, the methicillin-resistant strain of S. aureus.

"We didn't expect to find this. We were just trying to understand the ecology of the nose to understand how S. aureus causes problems," bacteriologist Andreas Peschel of the University of Tubingen in Germany said at a news briefing July 26 during the EuroScience Open Forum. Investigating the intense interspecies competition in the nose--where microbes fight for space and access to scant sugars and amino acids--might offer a fertile alternative to searching for new drug candidates in soil microbes.

Antibiotic researcher Kim Lewis of Northeastern University in Boston agrees that mining the human microbiome might lead to new drug discoveries. But so far, that approach has produced only a handful of potential new antibiotics. If "the compound they found is membrane-acting, [it] will be useful for topical applications but not as a systemic antibiotic," he says. New systemic antibiotics are needed most, he says.

Although a relatively nutrient-poor environment, the nose is home to over 50 bacterial species. One is S. aureus, a dominant cause of hospital-acquired infections such as MRSA, as well as infections of the blood and heart. But there's huge variability in the nasal microbe scene between individuals: While S. aureus is present in the nasal passages of roughly 30 percent of people, the other 70 percent have no sign of it. …

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