A team led by Rutgers University researchers have discovered two genes that make some strains of harmful Staphylococcus bacteria resistant to treatment by copper, a potent and frequently used antibacterial agent.
In a statement, Rutgers said the discovery revealed that Staphylococcus aureus could acquire additional genes that promote infections and antibacterial resistance and may open new paths for the development of antibacterial drugs.
The Staphylococcus aureus bacterium – a leading cause of serious and life-threatening infections in the United States – is highly resistant to antibiotics. Some strains of S. aureus have newly acquired genes embedded in their genome in pieces of DNA called transposons. DNA can be transferred from one organism to another, and transposons help the acquired DNA rapidly become a permanent part of the recipient’s chromosome.
Transposons aid in the spread of genes that can give rise to bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics and more likely to cause disease. The newly discovered genes are encoded within a transposon.
According to Jeffrey Boyd, study senior author and associate professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology in Rutgers’ School of Environmental and Biological Sciences, this process likely contributed to the recent North American epidemic of staph infections.