Health

Gene clue to how superbugs attack

Gene map
Image caption The research led to a gene map for MRSA

Genes that make MRSA resistant to antibiotics have been pinpointed by UK scientists.

More than 20 genes which help the superbug attack the human body have been identified, including one that may be a focus for future drug development.

The work, in BMC Systems Biology, was carried out by Medical Research Council researchers in London and Scotland.

There were 781 deaths involving the infection in the UK in 2009, compared with 51 in 1993.

MRSA is a form of Staphylococcus aureus that has grown resistant to the antibiotic Methicillin.

The experts studied a toxin from the skin of a bullfrog that kills MRSA.

They used lab tests and computer analysis to show the agent does this by weakening both the wall of the bacterium and its membrane.

They also put together a map of the relationships between most of the bacterium's genes.

The findings may help in the development of new therapies.

Professor Nick Hastie of the MRC Human Genetics Unit in Edinburgh said: "This work is a fine example of the relationship between analysing the fundamental processes which help infections to take hold and exploiting this knowledge to improve drug treatments."

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