A recent study shows that the use of first-line antibiotics for the treatment of MRSA could make superbugs stronger and even cause a worse infection.

In the research, published in the Host & Microbe journal Cell, the scientists stated that MRSA does not respond to beta-lactam antibiotics, and they also confirmed that the bacteria actually adapts to them, getting stronger in the process. Apparently, beta-lactam antibiotic’s mechanism of action involves neutralizing the enzymes in bacteria that make cell walls.

The image shows the MRSA as seen in a scanning electron micrograph. Credit: Corbis

The methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, also termed as MRSA, has transformed during the last few decades into one of the most difficult-to-treat pathogens, causing more tan 80,000 invasive infections and 11,000 related deaths per year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

This kind of bacteria is so common that it’s usually carried on the skin or in the nose of people who are healthy. It is so frequent that about one-third of the population carries it, and about 2 % of the population is colonized with resistant form.

There is a high proportion of antibiotic resistance in bacteria that cause common infections. Most of these bacteria are killed by beta-lactam antibiotics that work by stalling the action of proteins, which are a part of cell wall synthesis.

In the new study, researchers tested whether the immune system responds to these structural changes in a way that worsens MRSA infections. In fact, the scientists found that the beta-lactam antibiotics worsened the skin infection in rats.

Lead scientist Dr. George Liu, from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, said that their findings underscore the urgent need to improve awareness of MRSA and rapidly diagnose these infections to avoid prescribing antibiotics that could put patients lives at risk.

However, since the study was conducted in rats, the researchers stated that they have to now collect human data in order to determine the effects of beta-lactam antibiotics on human cases.

Source: Tribble Agency