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Breast Cancer Drug Tamoxifen Effective Against MRSA Superbug

A particularly nasty and sometimes deadly bacteria called methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is being carried by one out of fifty people. MRSA has been estimated to contribute to approximately 5,000 deaths in 2013, and many more invasive infections with dire consequences, up to and including the loss of limbs.

As it turns out, what the Washington Post calls “one of the most terrifying creatures that share our earth” is right under our noses.

For years, this bacterial scourge has been a bane to the general population, and to the doctors who have tried to cure it, but no cure was to be found. However, a recent study published in Nature Communications indicates that a popular breast cancer drug, tamoxifen, might be effective against this implacable nemesis.

Tamoxifen is an effective drug for treating breast cancer, but it has other effects, as well. It influences the way in which the molecules produce fatty cells known as sphingolipids, and induces higher production levels of a particular sphingolipid called ceramite. This high level of ceramite, combined with the high levels of neutrophils which are also produced with tamoxifen, create a larger number of extracellular “traps.” These function as the body’s front-line defense against infection.

Senior author Victor Nizet, professor of pediatrics and pharmacy, commented on the study stating that it “could have critical clinical implications given the large number of patients who take tamoxifen, often every day for years.”

While known for its efficacy against breast cancer cells, many other cell types are also exposed to tamoxifen. The ‘off-target effects’ we identified in this study could have critical clinical implications given the large number of patients who take tamoxifen, often every day for years.

To run a test, researchers injected mice with tamoxifen, and then with enough MSRA to kill them. Those with MSRA had their survival rate increased by 35%. This is particularly important because we live at a time when more and more bacteria are becoming drug-resistant, while the number of drug options we have for treatment, and the number of avenues down which we can develop, grow smaller and smaller, according to Eurekalert. Researchers have been targeting all sorts of potential solutions, even an 1100-year old recipe calling for cow’s bile, so this is a breakthrough in that area.

Last March, a superbug outbreak impacted Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles.

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