The HRB-funded research, published today in The Journal of Infectious Diseases, was conducted by Professor James O’Gara in NUI Galway and Dr Eoghan O’Neill in the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland.
According to Professor O’Gara, from the Department of Microbiology at NUIG, ‘We’ve discovered a new way that bacteria can attach themselves to the walls of a medical device and create a protective coating that stops our immune system and antibiotics from attacking them. MRSA can secrete an enzyme, called coagulase, that converts a component of our blood, fibrinogen, into fibrin. Fibrin is the protein that helps our blood to clot.
This then acts as a scaffold onto which the bacteria attach themselves to the walls of the device, usually a plastic tube or catheter, and they also create a protective barrier with the fibrin that keep out antibiotics and our own immune system’.
Dr O’Neill, Consultant Microbiologist & Senior Lecturer in RCSI takes up the story, ‘We’ve tested some drugs that are known to break up blood clots and have found that they can break up the biofilms protecting these dangerous bacteria.
This opens the possibility of us getting in early and disrupting the bacteria in the initial stages of an infection. When we break up the biofilm, we expose the bacteria to the patient’s own immune system response as well as allow us to try antibiotics against it’.
‘This discovery could make a significant global contribution to reducing device-related infections in hospitals’, according to Dr Graham Love, Chief Executive at the Health Research Board.
‘This is the second major discovery by Professor O’Gara and Dr O’Neill and their teams at NUIG and RCSI about how bacteria form biofilms. They are world leaders in their fields and the HRB is determined to keep them and researchers like them, in Ireland. We are committed to creating the right environment in which people can both conduct top quality health research, and quickly convert those findings in new advances in patient care and patient outcomes’.
A video recording of Professor O’Gara explaining the discovery is available at the link below.
The results are published in The Journal of Infectious Diseases, and available at their website at http://jid.oxfordjournals.org/.
RCSI Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, 123 St Stephens Green, Dublin 2, Ireland. Tel: +353 1 402 2100