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Why our nose is so inviting to this scary germ

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Why this germ loves our nose discovered by scientists

Researchers have found a new target that might help them find ways to keep staphylococcus or staph out of our nose. Now researchers know why the human nose loves the scary bacterium staphylococcus aureus.

The finding is important because MRSA can thrive in the nose of ‘carriers’ who in turn spread infection in the hospital and community.

You wouldn’t know if you’re a carrier of staph, whether it’s MRSA or an overabundance of the bacteria that causes no harm unless it overpopulates and leads to infection. You probably have the germ in your nose and it’s on your skin now, but unless you get sick and more grow, it’s normal and okay.

Scientists for a new study report that Staphylococcus aureus colonizes in the nose of about 20% of the population when it binds to skin-like cells.

Staph aureus can be invasive and cause deadly infection, which makes it important to understand how to get rid of it.

Staph likes to hang onto the skin protein loricrin, the researchers discovered for the first time. A protein located on the surface of the bacteria called clumping factor B (ClfB) apparently finds loricrin very attractive.

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Until now researchers didn't know exactly why staph has such an affinity for our nose.

Rachel McLoughlin, the study's corresponding author and Lecturer at the School of Biochemistry and Immunology at Trinity College Dublin concluded: "Loricrin is a major determinant of S. aureus nasal colonization." This discovery therefore opens new avenues for developing therapeutic strategies to reduce the burden of nasal carriage and consequently infections with this bacterium. This is particularly important given the difficulties associated with treating MRSA infections.”

The discovery came from mice. The researchers used knockout mice that lacked loricrin to compare colonization of staphylococcus aureus to normal mice. They found if they gave the mice loricrin nasally, it reduced binding and colonization of staph in the nose.

The finding pinpoints why our nose is so inviting for staphylococcus. Loricrin and staph have a love affair it seems. The new discovery means there is a way to break it up; potentially reducing MRSA incidence and other acquired infections.

PLOS Pathogens
December 27, 2012

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Image credit: Morguefile



why does Staphylococcus aureus colonize in the nose of only 20% of the population? Have they different skin cells? Why don't they colonize the noses of the other 80%? Why do germs in general only 'attack' a small section of people? Is their immunity jeopardized? Are these 20% of people with a weakened immunity? There are millions of germs in every breath we take, every food we eat and every glass of water. Even for those poor mice! I have no doubt that the researchers took these issues into consideration
Environment is probably the biggest factor Hans, combined with some lifestyle contributors.