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article imageEssential Science: Is a vaccine for MRSA possible?

By Tim Sandle     Jan 6, 2020 in Science
MRSA has caused numerous deaths in the hospital setting. Despite good progress with other vaccines, no vaccine for MRSA appears in sight. A new study shows why this is and points towards the best direction to go forwards.
The new inquiry, which comes from, signals why earlier attempts to develop a vaccine against the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus have failed. The research indicates that a new approach for vaccine design is required. This approach is one where an untapped set of immune cells need to be activated.
In addition, the researchers suggest that the only way a vaccine will be successful are if it is given in utero (before the mother has given birth) or very soon after birth.
MRSA
Bacterial resistant MRSA
Bacterial resistant MRSA
NIAID (CC BY 2.0)
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections are the result of a Staphylococcus bacterium. The organism that has become resistant to the once common antibiotics used to treat infections. Many MRSA bacteria are resistant to the antimicrobials methicillin, penicillin, oxacillin and cefoxitin antibiotics.
MRSA has led to significant health concerns in places like hospitals, prisons, and nursing homes, especially for patients with weakened immune systems. The main disease manifestations are blood infection (sepsis), toxic shock syndrome, and necrotizing pneumonia.
This 2005 scanning electron micrograph (SEM) depicted numerous clumps of methicillin-resistant Staph...
This 2005 scanning electron micrograph (SEM) depicted numerous clumps of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus bacteria, commonly referred to by the acronym, MRSA; Magnified 9560x.
CDC / Janice Haney Carr
Antimicrobial resistance
The bacterium forms part of the expanding issue of antimicrobial resistant bacteria. The consequence of this rise is the result that many infections require treatment with stronger antimicrobials and where some bacteria become multi-drug resistant, with the inevitable scenario that some infections will one-day become untreatable.
New research
The new research hails from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis where scientists are taking an alternative look at a ‘staph’ vaccine, looking at activating an untapped set of immune cells.
Working with rodents, the scientists discovered that T cells (a highly specific immune cell) function to protect against staph bacteria. However, the majority of vaccines serve to stimulate the other main type of immune cells called B cells.
A scanning electron microscope (SEM) image of a single human lymphocyte (an immune cell).
A scanning electron microscope (SEM) image of a single human lymphocyte (an immune cell).
Dr. Triche, National Cancer Institute
A T cell is a type of lymphocyte which develops in the thymus gland and plays a central role in the immune response. A lymphocyte is one of the subtypes of a white blood cell in a person's immune system.
Staphylococci produce an alpha-toxin which prevents the body from activating a T cell response, enabling the invasive bacterium to spread.
Further studies with mice show how seeking to elicit a robust T cell response is effective for targeting Staphylococcus bacteria in the bloodstream. Furthermore, additional studies suggest protecting the T cell response from the time of birth carries the prospect of reprogramming the bacteria's overall effect on the immune system, conferring greater protection.
Research paper
The research is published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, where the study is titled “Staphylococcus aureus α-toxin suppresses antigen-specific T cell responses.”
Essential Science
This article is part of Digital Journal's regular Essential Science columns. Each week Tim Sandle explores a topical and important scientific issue.
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Last time we looked at a newly discovered fungus which is causing havoc to American fir trees (which also serve as Christmas trees), together with some possible treatments.
The week before we examined research going into helping satellites to self-repair and the use of robot satellites to assist with this process. This is seen as something of great economic importance, given the costs incurred when satellites are damaged.
In addition, Digital Journal produced a special ‘essential science’ charting the best science stories of 2019.
More about Bacteria, Microbiology, clinical, MRSA, Medical
 
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