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Staph Infection

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Staph infections are caused by bacteria commonly found on the skin of healthy individuals, where they can only cause relatively minor skin problems. However, when staph bacteria enter a person's bloodstream, they can travel to locations deep within the body causing infections that are often hard to treat. Not surprisingly, staph infections are the leading cause of healthcare-related, so called nosocomial infections. Particularly vulnerable areas are medical devices such as artificial joints or cardiac pacemakers, where the bacteria strongly stick to through formation of biofilms. Central to biofilm formation is an unusually tight interaction between microbial surface proteins called adhesins and the extracellular components of the host cells. In a recent report in Science , researchers used a combination of atomic force microscopy and GPU-accelerated molecular dynamics simulations using QwikMD and NAMD , to explore how the connection between adhesin and its target fibrinogen peptide can withstand huge forces greater than 2 nano-Newtons (see also Perspective in Science. ). The geometry and molecular details of the interaction ensures that, when pulled, the load is distributed over many hydrogen bonds all of which need to be broken at once before separating the bacterium from the surface of the host cell (see video on YouTube ). The unexpected, new mechanism, expands our understanding of why pathogen adhesion is so resilient and open new avenues for an intelligent design of antimicrobial therapies through development of anti-adhesion drugs. Read more in Science.