Can reducing ‘sticky patches’ on cells fight MRSA?

A new treatment prevents skin wounds, such as bedsores and ulcers, from becoming infected.

It has been shown to work on antibiotic-resistant bacteria, such as MRSA, which is currently one of the biggest threats to global healthcare and medicine.

“Skin infections, such as bedsores and ulcers, can be incredibly troubling for patients who may already be dealing with other debilitating conditions. They are also a significant problem for modern healthcare,” says study leader Pete Monk of the department of infection, immunity, and cardiovascular science at the University of Sheffield.

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To launch an infection, bacteria attach tightly to skin cells and have learned to hijack “sticky patches” on human cells to achieve this. Using proteins called tetraspanins from human cells, scientists made these patches much less sticky, allowing bacteria to be harmlessly washed away.

The research has shown that these proteins prevent bacterial infections in a model of human skin, which the scientists say gives a clear indication that this treatment is both safe and effective.

“We hope that this new therapy can be used to help relieve the burden of skin infections on both patients and health services while also providing a new insight into how we might defeat the threat of antimicrobial drug resistance,” says Monk.

“The therapy could be administered to patients using a gel or cream and could work well as a dressing. We’re hoping it can reach clinical trials stage in the next three to five years.”

They tested this treatment on a model of 3D tissue engineered skin (TEskin) developed by engineers at the university.

The engineered skin, pioneered by Professor Sheila MacNeil from the department of materials science and engineering, can model infected wounds in human skin and mimics the tissue structure of normal adult skin. It can be used to analyze the penetration of peptides and bacteria.

Unlike conventional antibiotics, the tetraspanin proteins do not directly kill bacteria and so do not encourage the evolution of resistance.

Sheffield scientists are now developing the proteins for new anti-bacterial dressings that will help keep wounds sterile and so promote more rapid healing.

Age UK funded this work, which appears in PLOS ONE.

Source: University of Sheffield

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Source: Futurity