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TCD Researchers Discover How the Bacterium Staphylococcus Aureus that plays a vital role in spread of MRSA Colonises the Human Nose

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Jan 29, 2013

Staphylococcus aureus: why it gets up your nose!

A collaboration between researchers at the School of Biochemistry and Immunology and the Department of Microbiology at Trinity College Dublin has identified a mechanism by which the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) colonises our nasal passages. The study, recently published in the prestigious journal PLOS Pathogens, shows for the first time that a protein located on the bacterial surface called clumping factor B (ClfB) recognises a protein called loricrin that is a major component of the envelope of cells in the nose and skin. 

S. aureus is an important human pathogen, with the potential to cause severe invasive diseases. It is a major concern in hospitals and healthcare facilities, where many infections are caused by strains such as MRSA  that are resistant to commonly used antibiotics.  Interestingly, S. aureus persistently colonises about 20% of the human population by binding to skin-like cells within the nasal cavity. Being colonised predisposes an individual towards becoming infected so it is vital that we understand the mechanisms involved.  

ClfB was previously shown to promote S. aureus colonisation in a human nasal volunteer study. This paper now identifies the mechanism by which ClfB facilitates S. aureus nasal colonisation. ClfB binding to loricrin was shown to be crucial for successful colonisation of the nose in a mouse model.  A mouse lacking loricrin allowed fewer bacterial cells to colonise its nasal passages than a normal mouse. When S. aureus strains that lacked ClfB were used nasal colonisation was dramatically  reduced. Finally it was shown that soluble loricrin could reduce binding of S. aureus to human nasal skin cells and that nasal administration of loricrin reduced S. aureus colonisation of mice.

Trinity’s Assistant Professor at the School of Biochemistry and Immunology Rachel McLoughlin  and Professor of Molecular Microbiology Tim Foster, the study’s corresponding authors concluded: “Loricrin is a major determinant of S. aureus nasal colonisation. This discovery 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”.

This project was supported by a Science Foundation Ireland Programme Investigator award and the Wellcome Trust. 

The paper describes research performed by Michelle Mulcahy, postgraduate student in Microbiology, with the assistance of Joan Geoghegan (Assistant Professor of Microbiology and Ian Monk (postdoctoral associate, Microbiology) and Kate O’Keefe (PhD student, Biochemistry and Immunology).    

CITATION: Mulcahy ME, Geoghegan JA, Monk IR, O’Keeffe KM, Walsh EJ, et al. (2012) Nasal Colonisation by Staphylococcus aureus Depends upon Clumping Factor

B Binding to the Squamous Epithelial Cell Envelope Protein Loricrin. PLoS Pathog 8(12): e1003092. doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.1003092

The paper was published December 27th 2012 in the Open Access journal PLOS Pathogens, http://www.plospathogens.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.ppat.1003092

PLOS Pathogens (www.plospathogens.org) publishes outstanding original articles that significantly advance the understanding of pathogens and how they interact with their host organisms. All works published in PLOS Pathogens are open access. 

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| sharon.campbell@tcd.ie | Last updated: January 29, 2013