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Targeting cells known as persisters is a new and highly effective way of eradicating methi­cillin-resis­tant staphy­lo­coccus aureus, according to newly published research.

Because they are resistant to antibiotic treatment, MRSA infections have plagued long-term care facilities and other healthcare settings. Northeastern University’s Kim Lewis, Ph.D., believed that persister cells played a significant role in the antibiotic-resistant nature of these infections. Persisters are able to become dormant and so survive in the presence of antibiotics, which target active cells.

Lewis and his team conducted laboratory work and mouse studies, and discovered that the drug ADEP effectively “wakes up” the persister cells and causes them to die. The use of ADEP with antibiotics allowed for complete eradication of MRSA in both the laboratory and mouse studies, according to the researchers.

The discovery not only suggests that ADEP-based treatments could eliminate MRSA, but that the approach also could be used to combat other infections in humans, according to the report published yesterday in Nature.