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New Treatment Developed to Prevent Bacterial Skin Infections

A new treatment has been discovered by researchers at The University of Sheffield that can be used to fight antibiotic-resistant bacteria, such as MRSA, by using proteins called tetraspanins.

With funds provided by Age UK, researchers at the University of Sheffield have developed a new treatment to prevent bacterial skin infections in skin wounds such as ulcers and bed sores. In addition, this treatment can be used to fight antibiotic-resistant bacteria, such as the potentially deadly, Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), and discourage the evolution of antibiotic resistance on a broader scale, according to a new article released by The University of Sheffield.

The original research article published in PLOS ONE, posits that bacterial skin infections remain an important challenge in healthcare. They are defined as an “uncontrolled and excessive growth of bacterial pathogens in or on the skin.” Bacterial skin infections commonly originate in wounds and burns, and also pose a major problem for individuals with diabetes, or other chronic health conditions, as well as for the elderly. Infected wounds have a slow healing process and are a source of pain and discomfort for patients.

“To launch an infection, bacteria attach tightly to skin cells and have learned to hijack ‘sticky patches’ on human cells to achieve this. Using proteins called tetraspanins, from human cells, the Sheffield scientists have made these patches much less sticky, allowing bacteria to be harmlessly washed away,” according to the University of Sheffield’s press release.

This new treatment was trialed on a model of 3D tissue engineered skin (TESkin) that had been developed by University engineers. Sheila MacNeil, BSc, PhD, a professor from the University’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering, pioneered the engineered skin that can effectively model infected wounds in human skin and accurately mimic tissue structure in normal adult skin. The research showed that treatment consisting of proteins known as tetraspanins can safely and effectively prevent bacterial infections.

When speaking on further implications of this new treatment in its aid to combat antibiotic resistance, MacNeil said in The University of Sheffield’s article, “This research is a new way to fight bacteria that does not add to antibiotic resistance. Rather than try to kill bacteria, this approach uses a knowledge of how they normally attach to skin cells to reduce their ability to attach.”

According to the aforementioned article, the lead researcher on the conducted study, Pete Monk, PhD, from the University’s Department of Infection, Immunity and Cardiovascular Science, stated that they are aiming to get the new treatment to the clinical trials stage within the next 3 to 5 years so that it can be administered to patients in the form of a dressing, using a gel or a cream. This therapy can provide healthcare officials with new insight on how to eliminate antimicrobial drug resistance due to the fact that tetraspanin proteins do not directly kill bacteria.

Scientists at the University of Sheffield, funded by the Humane Research Trust, are currently in the process of developing the proteins that will be used for antibacterial dressings that will encourage rapid healing in wounds by keeping them sterile.