News of the WeekMicrobiology

Fighting Bacterial Fire With Bacterial Fire

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Science  22 Dec 2000:
Vol. 290, Issue 5500, pp. 2231-2233
DOI: 10.1126/science.290.5500.2231a

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Work presented last week at the annual meeting of the American Society for Cell Biology in San Francisco suggests that applying a harmless bacterium or its products to surgical wounds may thwart infections by the dangerous pathogen Staphylococcus aureus, a major cause of hospital-acquired infections. Although physicians have previously pitted one bacterium against another to prevent infections of the intestinal and genitourinary tracts, this is the first attempt to use a friendly microbe to prevent infection of surgical wounds, say experts. The findings also point to a possible mechanism for this "bacterial interference." They suggest that a protein secreted by the harmless bacterium prevents the pathogen from getting a foothold in injured tissue.