Scientists are working on a vaccine against drug-resistant staph bacteria such as MRSA.

MRSA is methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. It resists treatment with many antibiotics.

MRSA infections are rising worldwide. It often infects the skin but can also infect the blood, lungs, urinary tract, and other parts of the body.

Universityof Chicagoscientists are targeting staph bacteria -- including MRSA -- with an experimental vaccine.

The vaccine team includes graduate student Yukiko Stranger-Jones and Olaf Schneewind, MD, PhD, of the university’s microbiology department.

They describe their early vaccine tests on mice in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Drug-Resistant Staph a Growing Problem

Tackling a Tricky Foe

Schneewind put the project in perspective in a University of Chicago news release.

“This microbe’s ability to acquire the tools it needs to protect itself from the drugs we use to treat it is legendary, which is why a vaccine has become such a high priority,” he says.

First, the researchers identified 19 proteins that stud staph bacteria’s surface. Next, they built an experimental vaccine that targets those proteins.

Four of those proteins, when bundled together, were the best targets in lab tests on mice.

But vaccinating against individual proteins wasn’t much help, the study shows.

Much more work lies ahead before the vaccine is ready for people. But this experiment may bea first step, the researchers note.

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Avoiding MRSA

One day, an MRSA vaccine may be available.

Meanwhile, the CDC recommends these steps to guard against MRSA infection:

Wash your hands. Cover cuts and scrapes with a clean bandage. Don’t touch other people’s wounds or bandages. Don’t share personal items such as towels or razors. If you share any gym equipment, wipe it down before and after you use it. Dry clothes, sheets, and towels in a dryer. It helps kill bacteria.

By Miranda Hitti, reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

SOURCES: Stranger-Jones, Y. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Nov. 7, 2006; vol 103: pp 16942-16947. WebMD Medical Reference: “Understanding MRSA -- the Basics." WebMD Medical Reference: “Understanding MRSA -- Symptoms.” News release, University of Chicago Medical Center. WebMD Medical Reference: “Understanding MRSA -- Prevention.”