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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

New weapon against MRSA: insect brains

Simon Lee and others from the University of Nottingham have identified molecules in the brains of cockroaches and locusts that can kill drug resistant bacteria, such as MRSA.

MRSA, which stands for either methicillin-resistant or multidrug-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, is a huge problem, particularly in hospitals. As the name implies, the bacteria are partially or entirely immune to almost all known antibiotics, and thus are very difficult to kill. Lee and his team tried the novel approach of exposing the bacteria to insect brains.

More specifically, the researchers first identified some novel molecules within the insect tissues, and then determined their toxicity to both MRSA and to Escherichia coli. They found that the new compounds killed 90% of the bacteria, all without harming human cells. More studies are being done to understand exactly how this works. The scientists are hopeful that the insect brain components can lead to a new line of defense against bacterial invaders.

Interestingly, this isn’t the first insect product to fight MRSA. I previously wrote a post about the antibacterial properties of bee glue.