New treatment for MRSA: Scorpion venom

Mesobuthus martensii; Image source: Wikimedia Commons, Ja

Scientists from Wuhan University in China have discovered compounds in scorpion venom that may be the next new treatment for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) bacteria and potentially other antibiotic-resistant microbes. Specifically, the peptide BmKn2 was isolated from Mesobuthus martensii and modified into another peptide, Kn2-7 which increased the natural antibacterial properties of BmKn2 while at the same time reducing the risk for hemolysis (destruction of red blood cells).
The new peptide, Kn2-7 was successful at killing gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria, including MRSA. It was also able to treat skin infections in mice. How does it work? Kn2-7 binds to the cell wall of bacteria causing them to lyse (destruct). It was found to be safer than other peptides isolated from scorpion venom because it is less toxic to red blood cells.

MRSA is typically contracted through skin-to-skin contact, similar to other staph infections. People with weakened immune systems are more prone to staph infections, making MRSA increasingly common in hospitals (CDC reports: 2% of healthcare associated staph infections in 1974 compared to 64% in 2004). Healthy people can contract these infections too. At risk are people who share towels, razors or other equipment that has come into contact with skin including athletes, gym members, children at daycares, military personnel, etc. MRSA infections can be life-threatening since the bacteria is resistant to common antibiotics, hence the name. According to the CDC, there were 478,000 hospitalizations due to either staph (S. aureus) or MRSA in 2005, making this an exciting research discovery.  


Cao L, Dai C, Li Z, Fan Z, Song Y, Wu Y, Cao Z, and Li W. Antibacterial activity and mechanism of a scorpion venom peptide derivative in vitro and in vivo. PLoS ONE. In Press.


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Interesting! A breakthrough if passes all the tests and is made available to the public!