Stories about: Staphylococcus aureus

Science Seen: Tackling S. aureus by eavesdropping on infections

S. aureus vaccine messenger RNA transcriptome
This messenger RNA ‘heat map,’ generated from 50 patient samples, shows potential target proteins for a more effective S. aureus vaccine. The color scale indicates the magnitude of the transcription level, with red highest.

Staphylococcus aureus causes 11,000 deaths annually in the U.S. alone and is frequently antibiotic-resistant. It’s a leading cause of pneumonia, bloodstream infections, bone/joint infections and surgical site infections and the #1 cause of skin and soft tissue infections. Efforts to develop an S. aureus vaccine have so far failed: the vaccines don’t seem to be capturing the right ingredients to make people immune.

Kristin Moffitt, MD, in Boston Children’s Hospital’s Division of Infectious Diseases, took a step back and asked: “What proteins does S. aureus need to make to establish infection?” The answer, she reasoned, could point to new antigens to include in a vaccine.

The above image shows an early result from Moffitt’s investigation. It’s a “heat map” of the messenger RNA signature — a snapshot of the proteins S. aureus is potentially up-regulating during infection.

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Influenza, MRSA and why flu vaccination can save children’s lives

Influenza A H1N1 model (scherle.com/Wikimedia)

What caused previously healthy children to die during the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic?  Yesterday, the journal Pediatrics published the results of a study I conducted with the Pediatric Acute Lung Injury and Sepsis Investigator’s (PALISI) Network. Results have been widely reported, by the New York Times, the Washington Post, USA Today and TIME, among many others, provoking a lot of reader commentary, questions and, I fear, some misconceptions.

Methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA)(CDC)

Our study collected data on 838 children with 2009 H1N1 infection admitted across 35 pediatric intensive care units (ICUs) in the U.S. Most of these children were severely ill, the majority requiring mechanical ventilator support for respiratory failure, and 9 percent died. Many  (70 percent) had underlying illnesses like asthma or neurologic conditions that increased their risk. But among those who were previously healthy, the chief risk factor for death was co-infection with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA. It increased the risk of mortality 8-fold.

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