Thursday, March 02, 2006

MRSA using amoebae as a 'trojan horse'

MRSA or Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus is a grave concern in hospitals all over the world and not just for its lethality in patients. One of the biggest problems surrounding superbugs is getting rid of them once they are established in a hospital or other setting. As it turns out, one of the reasons that they might not be so easy to remove is due to the organisms surviving in other single celled organisms such as the humble amoebae. Amoebae are basically everywhere there is water and are little single celled animals that happen to like eating bacteria. In some cases however, the amoebae gets a meal that doesn't exactly want to die and instead uses the animal as a comfy home.

As it turns out MRSA is capable of this trick of living inside amoebae, which is of grave concern because this means water sources such as vases, sinks and even exposed drinking water with amoebae become potential MRSA reservoirs. To make a bad situation worse, living in amoeba may actually act as a means for improving the virulence and overall numbers of the bacterium, beyond those normally living on a bench surface. Studies with another pathogen, Legionella pneumophila have indicated that after growth in amoebae the organisms are both more pathogenic and more resistant to drugs than normal.

This is probably a consequence of being pre-adapted to the sort of environment they encounter in a human body, which tries to destroy them via a wide variety of defence peptides among other chemical mechanims. Additionally, living in an amoebae is in some respects very similar to living in human antigen presenting cells like macrophages, which is somewhat like getting used to the real thing. As they are also in higher numbers as well, it could be potentially even more disasterous for a patient that ends up infected with amoebae prepped MRSA.

In any event, after considering this finding, if I ever need to go to hospital I think I'll pass on having live flowers next to my bed.