Pathogenic Bacteria Prefer Heme

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Science  10 Sep 2004:
Vol. 305, Issue 5690, pp. 1577-1578
DOI: 10.1126/science.1102975

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Bloodletting by physicians before the era of antibiotics may seem like a barbaric practice, but it may have been of some benefit to patients suffering from bacterial infections. In her Perspective, Rouault explains that most bacteria depend on a source of iron to grow and survive inside their animal hosts. A new study ( Skaar et al.) shows that the pathogenic bacterium Staphylococcus aureus uses several ingenious strategies to obtain iron from heme stored as hemoglobin in the red blood cells of its mammalian hosts.