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U of I Team Penetrates Staph Defenses

University of Illinois researchers helped lead a team that recently found a vital weak spot in the defenses of the notorious Staph bacterium.

Among the deadliest of all disease-causing organisms, Staphylococcus aureus—better known as “Staph”—is believed to cause more deaths in the United States than HIV/AIDS each year. But researchers showed that a compound (BPH-652) cripples the organism’s production of a golden-colored carotenoid that normally acts as a type of armor, protecting the Staph bacterium against our body’s immune system.

The collaborative team, led by LAS chemistry professor Eric Oldfield, has found a way to penetrate this armor. They say the same golden armor used to thwart our immune system can also be the bacterium’s Achilles heel.

Winter 2008