Internationally collaborative research by Ewan Harrison (Medicine, Public Health and Primary care and Wellcome Sanger Institute), Xiaoliang Ba and Mark Holmes (both Veterinary Medicine) and Sharon Peacock (Medicine) suggests that a proportion of Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections could be tackled using widely available antibiotics.
Since the discovery of penicillin, the introduction of antibiotics to treat infections has revolutionised medicine and healthcare, saving millions of lives. However, widespread use has led some bacteria to develop resistance, making the medicines less effective.
In the study, published in Nature Microbiology, the scientists used genome-sequencing technology to identify the genes that make some MRSA susceptible to penicillin in combination with clavulanic acid. They identified a number of mutations centred around a protein known as a penicillin-binding protein 2a or PBP2a. The effect of these mutations means that a combination of penicillin and clavulanic acid could overcome the resistance to penicillin in a proportion of MRSA strains.