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Ironing Out Infections

January 4, 2011

Some organisms are better at fighting staph infections than others.


Ironing out staph infections…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Just like us, bacteria need iron to survive. So one way our red blood cells protect us from hungry, but dangerous microbes is by keeping iron tightly bound to the protein hemoglobin. Harmful bacteria such as staph aureus fight back by secreting toxins that unlock the iron in hemoglobin. Now, researchers have discovered that some animals lock iron away from staph better than others by making the hemoglobin molecules harder to recognize. Bacteriologist Eric Skaar of Vanderbilt University Medical Center led the study.

ERIC SKAAR (Vanderbilt University Medical Center):
The mouse appears to be much more resistant than humans are.

Similarly, some people are also more resistant to staph infections than others.
Since staph infections are the most common cause of hospital-acquired illnesses, the research may help pinpoint individuals who would benefit most from antibiotic treatments before undergoing medical procedures. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.