Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Investigating a Superbug
16 February 2013

Investigating a Superbug

The bacterium Staphylococcus aureus is the epitome of a resourceful pathogen. Commonly found on our skin and in our nose, it can colonise a range of tissues to cause conditions as diverse as skin infections, pneumonia or even food poisoning. Many strains, known as MRSA (methicillin-resistant S. aureus), have also acquired resistance to multiple antibiotics, making treatment of these infections extremely difficult. A major source of concern for humans, especially in hospital environments, these ‘superbugs’ also affect other species. Transmission between pigs and humans has been demonstrated, for example in farming communities, making infections in these animals particularly interesting to scientists. And pig tissues provide a convenient model for study. The spherical bodies pictured are MRSA cells colonising tissue from a pig’s nose. Growing these bacteria on porcine tissue cultures may help researchers to better understand the colonisation process, and hence find ways to combat MRSA infection.

Written by Emmanuelle Briolat

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