Researchers have discovered a toxin – SElX – released by Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) which leads the body's immune system to go into overdrive and damage healthy cells. SElX is made by 95 per cent of Staphylococcus aureus bacteria, making it a potential drug target to fight the hospital superbug. Their findings appear October 13th in the Open Access journal PLoS Pathogens.
SElX belongs to a family of toxins known as superantigens that can invoke an extreme immune response. When it is released it triggers an over multiplication of immune cells, which can lead to high fever, toxic shock and potentially fatal lung infections.
The research, carried out by the Universities of Edinburgh, Iowa and Mississippi State, looked at a strain of MRSA known as USA300 that can cause severe infections in otherwise healthy individuals.
Dr. Ross Fitzgerald, from the Roslin Institute at the University of Edinburgh, says "If we can find ways to target this toxin, we can stop it from triggering an over-reaction of the body's immune system and prevent severe infections."