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MRSA Gene that Enhances Superbug's Virulence Is On the Rise

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Characterizing the most virulent versions of MRSA may help researchers to battle the bug with vaccines.

Researchers have identified a gene that makes some strains of an antibiotic-resistant bacterium more virulent, and have found that the gene is becoming more prevalent.

Epidemics of infection with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) come in waves. To uncover the molecular basis of MRSA's virulence, Michael Otto, a molecular microbiologist at the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in Bethesda, Maryland, and his colleagues focused on a rare genetic element within a strain of MRSA, ST239, that is predominant in Asia.

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