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News for NMU Employees

NMU Helps with Project to Rapidly ID Staph Pathogens

Staph infections can range from mild skin problems to potentially fatal conditions if the bacteria invade deeper into the body. Most can be easily treated with antibiotics or by draining the infection. Some are drug-resistant. The faster the responsible bacteria can be identified, the faster the appropriate treatment can begin. This is the driving goal behind a new collaboration involving NMU biology researchers and Micro Imaging Technology Inc. of San Clemente, Calif. They are using the company’s MIT 1000, a laser-based bacteria detection system, to differentiate between the common Staphylococcus aureus and the “superbug” known as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

Josh Sharp (Biology, pictured) is directing the NMU research on clinical applications of the MIT 100 system (short for Micro Identification Technologies). Undergraduate and graduate students are assisting in his lab. 

“Being able to quickly identify if a patient has an S. aureus infection and whether or not that S. aureus is MRSA, a strain resistant to certain antibiotics, would be extremely useful in dictating the proper course of treatment for that patient,” Sharp said. “That would ultimately increase the likelihood of a successful patient outcome.”

According to a company press release, the identification test can be completed “in less than three minutes average at a significant cost savings per test.” It requires only clean-filtered water and a sample of the unknown bacteria. The process does not rely on chemical or biological agents, conventional processing, fluorescent tags, gas chromatography or DNA analysis.

“We are extremely pleased to be working with Dr. Sharp and his staff on this project,” said David Haavig, MIT’s chief scientist. “We are confident that this collaborative effort will be highly successful and the result of our teamwork and the clinical implications for this technology may very well prove to be immeasurable.”

At this stage, the collaboration involves scientists from NMU and MIT gathering preliminary data and seeking external funding in support of continued research.