Scientists have discovered that certain bacteria found in the human nose can produce an antibiotic that can kill Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), the hospital superbug behind several difficult-to-treat infections.
In a study published Wednesday in the Nature journal, the scientists found that the substance produced by the bacteria, which they named lugdunin, can act against a wide variety of treatment-resistant pathogens like Staphylococcus aureus or MRSA and even strains of Enterococcus bacteria.
The scientists analyzed nasal swabs of 37 individuals for the study. Around 30 percent of humans carry the MRSA strain in their nostrils, making them all the more susceptible to infections after surgery or illness. Researchers studied nasal swabs to see if there were any other microbes present in the human nose that put up a fight against the pathogen.
They found that Staphylococcus lugdunensis has the capacity to terminate MRSA even when it is outnumbered. The genes for the production of the chemical lugdunin, required for the killing of the pathogen, is present in all strains of S. lugdunensis, the study found.
“It’s really the first human-associated bacterium where the whole species is able to produce such an antibiotic,” co-author of the study Bernhard Krismer from the University of Tübingen, Germany, reportedly said.
Co-author Andreas Peschel from the University of Tübingen called the findings “totally unexpected.” He added that this discovery could be the first step in taking a preventative approach in dealing with bacterial infections. Peschel suggested that bacteria could be genetically modified to produce lugdunin and then introduced to patients with MRSA.
Apart from killing MRSA, lugdunin defeated other pathogens too, like the meningitis- and bronchitis-causing Streptococcus pneumonia and strains of Enterococcus, which is known to cause heart inflammations, urinary tract infections and bloodstream infections.
But the researchers reportedly admitted to not knowing how exactly the new antibiotic works and said that its clinical development is still a long way down the road. But the University of Tübingen has already applied for a patent for their discovery, believing that more such discoveries regarding the use of bacteria found on humans tackling pathogens is expected. "Lugdunin may be just the first example of such an antibiotic,” Peschel said.