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Human epithelial cells infected a cytotoxic S. aureus strain (left) and a noncytotoxic and persistent S. aureus strain (right) after 24 hours of infection. Confocal microscope image depicting cell nuclei (blue), lysosome (magenta), and S. aureus (yellow). Credit: Hachani and colleagues at the Doherty Institute

Researchers have discovered how golden staphylococcus, a common insect that can cause one of the most serious bacterial infections, hides inside human cells to avoid detection by the immune system.

Nearly one in three people globally carry golden staph, or Staphylococcus aureus, in their nose or on their skin unknowingly. While the bacterium is harmless for the most part, it can lead to serious infection and even death if it enters the bloodstream through a cut, surgical wound, or catheter.

The breakthrough, led by Dr. Abdou Hachani of the University of Melbourne, senior research scientist at the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity (Doherty Institute) and published in and Life, was made possible by a new cutting-edge methodology called “InToxSa”. It allows the study of golden staphylococcus behavior inside human cells on a large scale, with greater efficiency and speed, ultimately accelerating the research process.

Dr. Hachani explained that the innovative approach, developed by his research group, is key to understanding how golden staph behaves inside cells and gaining valuable insights into the bacteria’s ability to survive and thrive in humans. .

“We tested hundreds of strains of S. aureus taken from patients with bloodstream infections using InToxSa and observed specific changes that make the bacteria less harmful and better at surviving in our bodies,” said Dr. Hachani.

‘We have identified genes that control the ability of bacteria to persist within host cells without killing them. This is an important advance in understanding how S. aureus can cause lethal infections.’

Professor Tim Stineaar of the University of Melbourne, a molecular microbiologist at the Doherty Institute, explained that the platform’s findings will guide and inform precision and predictive medicine for the treatment of complicated infections based on the genetic makeup of clinical Staphylococcus aureus samples.

“InToxSa is a powerful tool that combines genetic analyses, microbiological data and statistical comparisons. It can handle a large volume of data in a systematic and standardized way, which ultimately leads to more comprehensive and accelerated scientific discoveries like ours,” said the Professor Stinear.

“Using this platform, we have been able to identify mutations in bacteria that are clinically relevant and promote their ability to persist within the body. This new knowledge will drive research to find new ways to fight these infections.”

More information:
Abderrahman Hachani et al, A high-throughput cytotoxicity screening platform reveals agr-independent mutations in bacteraemia-associated Staphylococcus aureus that promote intracellular persistence, and Life (2023). DOI: 10.7554/eLife.84778

About the magazine:
and Life

Provided by the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity

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