Top level navigation

Breadcrumb to current page

Main content

#HRB30 Story

A key part of the puzzle for a vaccine to tackle MRSA

15 December 2016

MRSA, where Staphylococcus aureus bacteria have become resistant to antibiotic treatment, is one of the most infamous ‘superbugs’. HRB-funded research at Trinity College Dublin has discovered that a type of immune cell called a Type 1 T-helper cell is an important component of the body’s response to Staph infection and that these cells could be targeted in the design of future vaccines against MRSA to protect vulnerable patients.

Trinity College Dublin, Lead researcher Dr Rachel McLoughlin

The problem

MRSA is a serious problem in healthcare settings because the bacteria (Staphylococcus aureus or SA) has become resistant to antibiotics. A vaccine could help to protect vulnerable patients, but to design an effective vaccine we need to know how the body naturally reacts to SA infection.

The project

At Trinity College Dublin, Dr Rachel McLoughlin analysed samples from patients who had been infected with SA and found that a type of immune cell called a ‘Type 1 T-helper’ (Th1) cell seemed to be important for recovery. The research also showed that boosting these cells in an experimental model resulted in better recovery from MRSA infection.

The outcomes
  • We know that Th1 cells are involved in tackling SA infection in the body.
  • Boosting Th1 cells with an experimental vaccine helped to clear SA infection.
  • The findings, which have been published in the highly regarded journal PLoS Pathogens, will help scientists to design a future vaccine against MRSA to protect vulnerable patients.

Dr Rachel McLoughlin says:

‘We should be trying to better understand how our body naturally responds to bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus. We collected samples from patients at Tallaght, St James’s and Beaumont Hospitals who had a SA bloodstream infection and we identified a specific type of immune cell that was present at higher levels in patients who were recovering from the infection. We then developed a model vaccine to target these immune cells and in our model it improved infection outcomes. It is very exciting to think that the work we have done here could contribute to the development of an effective vaccine against MRSA’.

Search the HRB website

Other information and links