Use of certain antibiotics to treat MRSA 'superbug' may make infection worse

Treating methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, one of the most notorious antibiotic-resistant superbugs, with certain antibiotics may make some infection patients sicker, according to new research.

In a mouse study, Los Angeles-based Cedars-Sinai researchers identified a process that MRSA bacteria undergo when a specific antibiotic similar to methicillin, called beta lactams, is administered. When faced with beta lactams, MRSA reacts by building cells walls that cause significant inflammation and tissue damage, according to the researchers. This made the mice sicker than they had been before receiving treatment for the infections.

Under normal circumstances, staph infections that are vulnerable to antibiotics like methicillin or beta lactams will have the enzymes that construct their cells walls inactivated. One of these enzymes in MRSA, however, is impervious to beta lactams and triggers the inflammatory response, negatively impacting the mice.

The researchers concluded that, although further research is necessary, and this study was based on a mouse model, prescribing beta lactam antibiotics in people with staph infections could worsen their outcomes, if the infections are caused by the superbug MRSA.

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