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article imageDo antibiotics to treat MRSA make patients sicker?

By Tim Sandle     Nov 15, 2015 in Science
New evidence suggests certain antibiotics intended to treat patients with MRSA infections are actually causing more harm than good.
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) refers to a strain of the bacterium S. aureus that has acquired resistance to a major class of antibiotic methicillin. It is part of the growing problem with antimicrobial resistant bacteria with the result being that many infections now require treatment with stronger antimicrobials; that some bacteria have become multi-drug resistant; and a worse-case scenario that some infections will one-day become untreatable.
Putting these serious issues to one side, there are also concerns about the treatment effectivity of some antibiotics in relation to patient health. This concern is based on a recent study using mice.
Using a mouse model, researchers found alternative antibiotics to methicillin, called beta lactams, caused the S. aureus bacteria to develop cell walls that exhibited highly inflammatory properties to the human body and this led to tissue damage. The inference being that although it is possible to kill MRSA with alternative antibiotics, the effect of these antibiotics was to trigger biochemical changes to the bacterial cell that could also harm a mammalian body.
Beta lactams kill bacteria by inactivating cell wall enzymes. However, with types of S. aureus that have developed methicillin resistance a beta lactam antibiotic appears to activate a cell wall enzyme called PBP2A. This creates a cell wall that is different and this difference appears to affect mammalian tissue. The effect of the inflammation was that the mice became sicker.
A degree of caution should be used with the interpretation of these findings. The results relate to one study only and the effects have only been observed on mice, and not human beings. No recommendations to current prescribing guidelines are made at this point. Nevertheless, the findings are of sufficient interest to warrant further investigation.
The study was carried out between Cedars-Sinai scientists and the findings are published in the journal Cell Host & Microbe. The paper is titled “Poorly Cross-Linked Peptidoglycan in MRSA Due to mecA Induction Activates the Inflammasome and Exacerbates Immunopathology.”
More about Antibiotics, MRSA, Bacteria, Infection, antimicrobials
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