Two recent studies provide evidence for a new approach to vaccines to prevent infections caused by drug-resistant Staphylococcus aureus — better known as MRSA – the leading cause of skin and soft tissue, bloodstream and lung infections in the United States. One demonstrates a way to counteract the bacteria’s knack for evading the immune system. The other shows how to disrupt the germ’s tissue-damaging mechanism.
Each approach dramatically reduced the virulence of staph infections in mice. The combination may protect people from MRSA infections and provide lasting immunity to this virulent and drug-resistant organism, which has become the leading cause of death from infectious disease in the United States.
Since the 1960s, development of a staph vaccine has been a priority for the medical profession — but less so for the pharmaceutical industry, which has veered away from vaccine research. Previous attempts at a MRSA vaccine have failed. In the last decade, however, as staph increased its ability to resist multiple antibiotics and drug-resistant strains came to dominate the community setting, the search for a protective vaccine has moved to center stage.