Scientists in the Department of Pharmacy and Pharmacology, Anatomy and Veterinary Medicine have found a new way to identify the methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MSRA), a so-called “superbug” resistant to normal antibiotics.
Staphylococcus aureus is a bacterium that can infect the skin. Although it is a relatively common infection, it can easily turn deadly. Staph infections are a leading cause of extended hospital stays as infection after surgery is common. Penicillin is the normal treatment for such infections, but MRSA is resistant, though not immune, to normal drugs.
The faster MRSA is detected, the sooner it can be treated.
The team of Auburn scientists published a video and paper of their findings in the online publication Journal of Visualized Experiments.
In order to detect the bacteria, Auburn’s team of scientists used a complicated method involving penicillin-binding proteins, latex beads and a biosensor designed to monitor the interactions of microorganisms. Using the sensor, scientists would note changes in resonance frequencies, and the results would tell them if the microorganisms were sensitive to MSRA.
“We used staphylococcus sensitive phage with a broad spectrum of hosts and MRSA specific antibody, deposited phage onto the surface of an acoustic wave sensor, and measured two signals: binding bacteria signal and signal of binding beads with antibodies. When both signals are positive, we have MRSA,” said Vitaly Vodyanoy, director of the Biosensor Laboratory and one of the lead researchers.
According to the paper, the main advantage of the old method is alternative methods are too sensitive to impurities that may taint results.
Quick detection of disease is important, especially with drug-resistant infections.
New methods of detection allow for faster, more effective treatment. Drug resistant infections are quite common in hospitals, prisons and other areas where open wounds are common, making quick detection in such places even more important. Quick detection is also important when doctors need to know if there is a disease present, not just whether it is MRSA.
Human testing will begin and be approved for general use on humans before the new biosensors can be implemented.
Vodyanoy said the time frame with which biosensors will be implemented depends on funding.
The team’s results have been published in three peer-reviewed journals, meaning many mainstream doctors and scientists agree with their work. With the professional community’s endorsement, the team hopes more funding will be available in the future.