Developing a remedy against MRSA, a life-threatening bacterium
Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA, see picture) is a bacterium that is resistant to most common antibiotics. Moreover, it can 'easily change coat' thereby developing immunity to new antibiotics as well. The bacterium is therefore difficult to treat and developing a remedy is a big challenge.

In this project researchers are developing a medicine that attacks MRSA on several fronts. They have identified seven surface proteins that are common to all S. aureus bacteria. These proteins can be attacked by antibodies that are part of the human immune system, thereby disabling the bacterium. By using a cocktail of these antibodies the bacterium is practically unable to develop immunity to the medicine. The researchers use the antibody-producing cells of humans, thereby minimizing the risk of an immune response to the remedy. These cells will then be used to clone pure antibodies. 

This medicine could potentially save a lot of lives and be a great stimulus for the Dutch economy.

Fast facts
Full title: Protective human antibodies against multidrug resistant Staphylococcus aureus
Start date: October 2007
End date: October 2012
Principal investigator: Jan Maarten van Dijl
Project size: 12 FTE
Partners: Erasmus Medical Center, IQ Corporation, Pepscan Presto BV, University Medical Center Groningen, University Medical Center Utrecht 


MRSA is a special variant of the S. aureus bacterium that is resistant to most commonly used antibiotics and therefore difficult to treat. It is often also referred to as a hospital bacterium since it can often be found in hospitals. 

Staphylococcus aureus resides predominantly in the nostrils of one in three adults, where it is usually harmless. Problems arise when the S. aureus bacterium, and MRSA in particular, manages to enter the bloodstream, which can occur through various events like injuries, surgery or a weakened immune system. The symptoms of such an S. aureus infection vary from boils to meningitis and sepsis. 

Infected patients experience a five times increased risk of in-hospital death and their hospital stay is increased threefold on average, increasing the costs by the same ratio. With only one percent of all infections caused by the resistant bacterium, the infection rate in the Netherlands is one of the lowest in the world. However, the numbers are expected to rise rapidly since the bacterium can easily change thereby becoming immune to an antibiotic.

PhD Theses from this project

“One of TI Pharma's big strengths is that it knows how to manage money. That's a skill that should be more widespread.”

Tim Wells
Chief Scientific Officer
Medicines for Malaria Venture

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