PHARMACY

Source of strength for drug-resistant Staph located

BY Drew Buono

SEATTLE Scientists at the University of Washington in Seattle discovered that some bacterium including the methicillin-resistant Staph aureus or MSRA produces lactic acid that counteracts the environment the body produces to prevent most bacteria from growing, according to published reports.

The study focused on nitric oxide—a chemical the body produces to create an environment noxious to most bacteria. The nitric oxide acts as a natural antibiotic and is excreted by human cells, especially in the nose, that usually keeps microbes from undergoing respiration or fermentation. However, the ability of Staph aureus to produce lactic acid in the presence of nitric oxide keeps the Staph growing.

When the Staph aureus was modified and lost its ability to make lactic acid, it could no longer tolerate nitric oxide. The modified bacteria also lost their ability to survive in host immune cells and no longer caused lethal diseases in mice.

“MRSA has become an enormous public health problem,” study lead author Ferric Fang said in a statement. “Staph aureus has already colonized about one-third of the world’s population, so traditional antibiotics will probably not be the complete answer to the MRSA problem.”

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PHARMACY

Study offers insights into cell growth ‘on/off’ switch

BY Drew Buono

DURHAM, N.C. According to a study published in the April issue of the journal Nature Cell Biology, new information has been found about an on-off switch that controls cell growth could one day help identify targets for drugs to treat cancer and other diseases that involve unnatural cell growth.

If the switch is “on,” then a cell will divide, even if it’s damaged or the signal to grow disappears, according to researchers at the Duke Institute for Genome Sciences and Policy.

The on-off switch is part of the pathway that controls cell division, the process that creates new cells. Before a cell divides, it goes through a checklist to make sure everything is in order. If the cell senses a problem early on, it can halt the process. But once the cell passes what’s called the restriction point, it can no longer stop division. This on-off switch controls the restriction point and therefore plays an important role in cell growth, according to the study.

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PHARMACY

Biotech firms spent $58.8 billion on R&D in 2007

BY Drew Buono

SAN FRANCISCO According to an analysis by Burrill and Company and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the biotech industry’s investment into research and development of new medicines was $58.8 billion in 2007.

The report also showed the PhRMA-member companies spent about $44.5 billion on research and development last year by themselves; this was a slight increase from the record number of 2006 which was $43 billion. Non-PhRMA companies spent about $14.3 billion, up from $12.2 billion in 2006.

“America’s biopharmaceutical research companies continue to pave the way for the development of future treatments and cures,” said PhRMA president and chief executive Billy Tauzin. “Simply put, R&D is the lifeblood of U.S. pharmaceutical innovators. Last year’s investment builds on over 25 years of growth in R&D spending as our researchers continue the search for new and improved therapies to tackle a wide range of diseases and conditions such as cancer, heart disease, HIV/AIDS and Alzheimer’s.”

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