JUN 08, 2018 7:11 PM PDT

Staph Bacteria can Sustain Infection by Eating Bone

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

The bacterium Staphylococcus aureus can cause illness, often referred to as Staph infections; when those infections get into bone, they become very serious. Researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center have now identified the mechanisms that these microbes use so they can live in bone tissue. Presenting their findings at the annual meeting of the American Society for Microbiology, ASM Microbe, this study showed how pathogens like S. aureus can use bone tissue for its nutritional needs.

S. aureus / Credit: Janice Haney Carr, Jeff Hageman, M.H.S, USCDCP/ Pixnio

S. aureus can be a harmless bacterium that exists in our airways and skin, but there are also strains that can produce toxic compounds. It's also dangerous if the microbe moves further into the body. S. aureus can infect bone (a condition called osteomyelitis), even though bone is a tissue that cycles through cell growth and destruction, and is an environment that’s low in oxygen. The researchers wanted to know more; they knew of many cases in which the bacterium took up residence there.

"For this reason, many patients with bone infection require surgeries to remove infected or damaged bone," said the lead author of the work, Jim Cassat, M.D., Ph.D., Associate Director, Vanderbilt Institute for Infection, Immunology, and Inflammation. ”Our lab studies osteomyelitis with the goal of defining how bacterial pathogens survive in such a dynamic environment, how bone cells sense and respond to bacterial pathogens, and how immune responses crosstalk with bone turnover."

The researchers tested mutated bacterial strains in which various pathways had been rendered inactive. Then those strains were given only bone to survive. The test identified the pathways that were essential for the microbe's survival in bone tissue.

"We found that S. aureus needs to synthesize certain amino acids itself, rather than relying on the host nutrients," revealed Cassat. 

There are thirteen critical metabolites that life needs to build molecules and keep cells fueled and alive. The investigators looked at how S. aureus gets the material from its host to make and use them in its cellular pathways. "Because these particular amino acid biosynthesis pathways are found only in microbes and plants, they might be particularly attractive targets for the development of new antimicrobial compounds," said Dr. Cassat. 

This work sheds light on a common bacterial pathogen, one which can cause infection and destruction in many different tissues of the body. That tissue destruction interferes with therapeutics, which then can’t reach the site of infection.

You can learn more about the illness caused by S. aureus from the video.

Sources: AAAS/Eurekalert! Via ASM, Mayo Clinic

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on 28 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 60 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
JAN 12, 2020
Microbiology
JAN 12, 2020
Using Microbial Manufacturers to Create Eco-Friendly Skis
There is huge potential in microbes; researchers have long been trying to use them to produce valuable materials like medicine, polymers, and fuel....
JAN 15, 2020
Microbiology
JAN 15, 2020
Scientists Engineer a New Kind of Life Form
Usig cells harvested from frogs, researchers created tiny robots....
FEB 09, 2020
Microbiology
FEB 09, 2020
Investigating the Links Between Viruses and Cancer
The Pan-Cancer Analysis of Whole Genomes (PCAWG) has brought over 1,300 scientists together to gain new insights into the genetics of cancer....
FEB 23, 2020
Microbiology
FEB 23, 2020
Using Cranberries and Citrus to Remove Viruses From Food
Noroviruses can contaminate fresh produce and in developed nations, they are the most common cause of gastroenteritis....
FEB 26, 2020
Microbiology
FEB 26, 2020
NIAID Tests Remdesivir as a Treatment for COVID-19
A case of coronavirus has now occured in the US in someone without a known link to an infected person or travel....
MAR 22, 2020
Microbiology
MAR 22, 2020
The Benefits of Being a Loner
Outliers exist everywhere in nature, and it seems they serve an important purpose....
Loading Comments...