Pneumonia :: Bacteria in staph infections can cause necrotizing pneumonia

Researchers at the Texas A&M Health Science Center Institute of Biosciences and Technology at Houston have discovered a toxin present in the bacteria responsible for the current nationwide outbreak of staph infections also has a role in an aggressive pneumonia that is often fatal within 72 hours.

Their study is available online in Science Express and in an upcoming issue of the journal Science.

?The virulence of CA-MRSA (community-associated methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) strains that produce the PVL (Panton Valentine leukocidin) toxin presents a nightmare scenario,? said M. Gabriela Bowden, Ph.D., research assistant professor at HSC-IBT and co-senior author. ?If the community-acquired strain establishes itself in the hospital setting, it will be difficult to contain.?

The most common cause of staph infections, S. aureus is a bacteria found on the skin or in the nose of about 25-30 percent of people. It also can be the culprit in minor skin infections like pimples and boils, as well as major diseases like meningitis, endocarditis, toxic shock syndrome and pneumonia.

In their study, Dr. Bowden and her colleagues at the HSC-IBT Center for Extracellular Matrix Biology used mice to analyze S. aureus Panton Valentine leukocidin (PVL), a pore-forming toxin secreted by bacterial strains associated with both the current outbreak of CA-MRSA and necrotizing pneumonia.

CA-MRSA causes serious skin and soft tissue infections in healthy persons who have not been recently hospitalized or undergone invasive medical procedures, while necrotizing pneumonia destroys healthy lung tissue and can be fatal within 72 hours. With the PVL toxin, the bacterium also attacks infection-fighting white blood cells (leukocytes).

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