Study finds master toxin regulator in staph infections

Researchers with St. Jude Children's Research Hospital recently discovered an enzyme that regulates the production of toxins that contribute to potentially fatal Staphylococcus aureus infections.

The findings, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, also found that the same enzyme allows Staphylococcus aureus to use fatty acids within hosts to make the membrane that bacteria need to grow. The discovery could help in the development in treatments for staph infections, ScienceDaily reports.

"Staphylococcus aureus is a clear and present danger to patients worldwide," Charles Rock, a member of the St. Jude Department of Infectious Diseases and co-author of the study, said, according to ScienceDaily. "We set out to answer a long-standing question about bacterial membrane biochemistry and discovered a master regulator of the virulence factors that make staph infections so destructive and dangerous. The pathway we identified offers an exciting new target for antibiotic drug development."

Previous research conducted by Rock hinted at a connection between fatty acid synthesis and the production of virulence factors, but the new study was the first to establish a biochemical link and identify the mechanism involved, ScienceDaily reports.

Staphylococcus aureus is the most common cause of staph infections, including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, also known as MRSA. Drug-resistant MRSA is a growing problem in hospitals.