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 New Wound Treatment Could Address Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria

While Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) rates appear to be on the decline in health care settings, the infection is still a major threat—especially to frail elders. A study published last month highlights a new skin wound treatment that may help address antibiotic-resistant bacteria, such as MRSA. In the study, researchers used proteins called “tetrapanins” to make the “sticky patches” on human cells—which bacteria take over to launch an infection—less adhesive, enabling bacteria to be washed away easily.

In the study, tetrapanins were used to prevent bacterial infections in a model of human skin. The treatment appears to be both safe and effective and does not encourage the development of resistant bacteria strains. Researchers anticipate that this intervention would be administered via topical gel or cream and could work as a dressing. They are hoping to reach clinical trial stage in about three years.

“We have developed this potential treatment with chronic skin wounds, such as ulcers in diabetics and pressure sores in the elderly and immobile, in mind. Treatments that lower the bacterial burden in infected wounds will improve the patient’s quality of life, increase rates of wound healing, and lower the chances of developing a life-threatening systemic infection,” Peter Monk, BSc, PhD, faculty member in the Department of Infection, Immunity, and Cardiovascular Disease at the University of Sheffield, United Kingdom, tells Provider.
He adds, “It is likely to be helpful [in the elder population], in particular for long-term use in slow-healing wounds, to help overcome possible problems of toxicity or resistance emerging.” Moreover, he says, “The peptides that we use are likely to be rapidly broken down by the body’s natural defenses, so topical application is unlikely to lead to any buildup of systemic peptides that could lead to toxicity.”
The ability to treat some infections without the use of antibiotics could help prevent incidences of antibiotic resistance, Monk says.
 
An interesting point about the approach that we have taken—preventing bacterial sticking to skin cells—is that we don't kill bacteria, or even lower their growth rates. Antibiotics that do these things tend to encourage resistance because even a tiny percentage of resistant bacteria in a wound will outgrow the normally nonresistant bugs. This results in a whole population of resistant bacteria that might go on to infect a new patient. So far, we have not seen resistance to our treatment, but it is still early in the study.”
 
Monk says that he and his team don’t yet know how many different types of bacteria will be affected by this treatment, so they can’t say that all patients will be suitable candidates. However, he says, “It seems that the range of bacteria that can be dislodged more easily after treatment with peptides is broader than for some conventional antibiotics.”
 
When this treatment hits the market, Monk anticipates it will be cost-effective for use in a variety of settings. “While costs are unclear at present, we expect treatments to be inexpensive, especially compared with currently conventional therapies.”
 
To read the study, visit http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0160387. For more information about MRSA or to learn about local infection rates, see www.cdc.gov/mrsa/.
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