Part of the show Cancer, Cancer Diagnosis and Chemotherapy
Researchers looking for new ways to deal with antibiotic resistant infections may have discovered a bacterial achilles heel. Analysing the genetic code of one superbug, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), Nicholas Mann and his team at the University of Warwick have found that these bacteria carry DNA coding for bacterial viruses, called bacteriophages, that can selectively kill this type of bacteria. These bacteriophages normally remain in a dormant state, hiding within the genome, and are not normally lethal to the bacteria. But by isolating rare mutants of the bacteriophages, the researchers have produced 10 new types of phage which can selectively infect and kill MRSA. They plan to commercialise their discovery with the production of wound dressings impregnated with their new bacteriophages, to stop any rogue bacteria gaining a foothold. It may also be possible to use these phages in a nose-spray to reduce Staphylococcus aureus carriage among hospital staff and patients.