One of the bacteria that causes food poisoning, Staphylococcus aureus, can also cause nasty skin blisters-a condition known as bullous impetigo-through the release of the toxin, exfoliatin. Based on knowledge of a similar condition, in which the skin also appears scalded, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have discovered the mechanism by which exfoliatin causes bullous impetigo (Nature Medicine, 01 Nov 2000).
Desmoglein 1 (Dsg 1), is a cadherin adhesion molecule that helps to stick cells together. John Stanley and colleagues have shown that exfoliatin attacks both mouse and human Dsg 1, but leaves other cadherins intact. The attack on Dsg 1 causes blistering just below the surface of the epidermal barrier, allowing S. aureus to proliferate and spread beneath this barrier resulting in further blistering.
Current treatment for bullous impetigo relies on the antibiotics dicloxacillin and erythromycin, but understanding how the S. aureus toxin causes blistering will mean that better therapies for the painful condition can be developed. Ervin Eptstein from USCF School of Medicine explains the value of the discovery in an accompanying News & Views article.
Dr. John R. Stanley
University of Pennsylvania Health System
Department of Dermatology
211B Clinical Research Bldg.
415 Curie Blvd.
Philadelphia, PA 19104
Telephone: 215 898 3240
Fax: 215 573 2033
Dr. Ervin Epstein Jr
Department of Dermatology,
USCF School of Medicine
Rm 269 Bldg 100 SF General Hospital
1001 Potrer San Francisco
Telephone: 415 647 3992
Fax: 415 647 3996
(C) Nature Medicine press release.
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