Forget MRSA and E. coli. There’s another bacterium that is becoming increasingly dangerous due to antibiotic resistance — and it’s present on the skin of every person on the planet.
A close relative of MRSA, Staphylococcus epidermidis, is a major cause of life-threatening infections after surgery, but it is often overlooked by clinicians and scientists because it is so abundant.
Researchers from the Milner Centre for Evolution at the University of Bath warn that the threat posed by this organism should be taken more seriously and use extra precautions for those at higher risk of infection who are due to undergo surgery.
They have identified a set of 61 genes that allow this normally harmless skin bacterium to cause life-threatening illness.
They hope that by understanding why some strains of S. epidermidis cause disease in certain circumstances, they could in the future identify which patients are most at risk of infection before undergoing surgery.
They took samples from patients who suffered infections following hip or knee joint replacement and fracture fixation operations and compared them with swab samples from the skin of healthy volunteers.
They compared the genetic variation in the whole genomes of bacteria found in samples from diseased and healthy individuals. From this they identified 61 genes in the disease-causing bacteria that weren’t present in most of the healthy samples.
Surprisingly however, there was a small number of healthy individuals who were found to be carrying the more deadly form of the bacteria without knowing it.
Read more at University of Bath