New study aids fight against Staph infections

A study by researchers at New York University's Medical Center recently discovered new mechanisms the Staphylococcus aureus bacteria uses to kill white blood cells.

"What we've found is that Staph unleashes a multi-purpose toxin capable of killing different types of immune cells by selectively binding to surface receptors," Victor J. Torres, assistant professor of microbiology and senior author of the study, said. "Staph has evolved the clever ability to target the immune system at different stages."

The study, which was published in the journal Cell Host & Microbe, examined LukED, a toxic staph protein that is responsible for killing white blood cells including T-cells, macrophages and dendritic cells, to find how the protein attacked each type of cell.

Researchers discovered, for the first time, how the LukED toxin attaches to neutrophils cells, the first responders of the immune system. The toxin attaches itself to CXCR1 and CXCR2 receptors on the cell's surface, making the surface porous and killing the cell. Although this study gives insight to the tactics used by the staph bacteria, scientists said more research is required to determine the best strategy to combat the disease.

"We know we can block CCR5 receptors without crippling the rest of the immune system," Torres said. "Some people lack CCR5 and they are perfectly healthy and immune to HIV as well, but just blocking CCR5 isn't enough. The lesson is to target the toxin itself and prevent it from attaching to any receptors. We have to think globally."