January 10, 2019

The genetic determinants of Staphylococcus aureus osteoarticular metastasis

PIs: Lauren V. Schnabel (NC State), Vance G. Fowler (Duke University), Jessica M. Gilbertie (NC State)

Seed Grant in Pathogenic and Commensal Organisms

Staphylococcus aureus is a significant pathogen and the primary cause of bacteremia, or bacteria within the bloodstream, in adult patients. Bacteria can leave the bloodstream and enter tissue locations such as the joint. Once within the joint, S. aureus aggregates together to hide from the immune system and avoid killing by antibiotics resulting in chronic infection and substantially increased mortality rates. How the bacteria evolve to leave the bloodstream, enter the joint, and persist therein due to aggregation is unknown. A new collaboration between DVM investigators at NC State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine (NCSU-CVM) and an MD investigator and infectious disease specialist at Duke University will screen S. aureus collected from bacteremia cases for their ability to aggregate and avoid killing by antibiotics in joint fluid collected from horses. The genetic profile of those bacteria that aggregate versus those that do not will be compared to identify S. aureus genes important to aggregation and persistent infections in the joint. We anticipate this One Health approach will enable us to better understand how bacteria enter the joint and live there despite the immune response and a course of antibiotics. The results of this grant will identify new targets for new drugs that have the potential to substantially decrease pain and suffering in patients afflicted with S. aureus bacteremia.

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