A study by University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center researchers showing how estrogen-driven differences in immunity help protect females from skin and soft tissue staph infections was singled out this week for recognition by a prestigious journal.
The January 15 issue of The Journal of Immunology highlighted the study, “Innate Sex Bias of Staphylococcus aureus Skin Infection is Driven by alpha-Hemolysin,” in its “In This Issue” section, which includes papers it considers to be among the top 10 percent of the articles it publishes.
The authors started by searching a database of de-identified electronic health records and found that men are more than twice as likely as women to develop staph-caused skin infections.
The UNM researchers studied the effects of Methicillin-resistant Staphycoccus Aureus (MRSA) bacteria. The infection typically causes skin cells to die and slough off, in part due to a toxin released by the staph bacteria called alpha-hemolysin.
MRSA-infected female mice had less skin damage and greater success at killing the bacteria, the team found. They attributed the stronger immune response in female mice in large part to the effects of estrogen.
“This knowledge may lead to novel therapeutic strategies to promote resistance to skin infection caused by the staph bacteria,” said Pamela Hall, an associate professor in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences in the UNM College of Pharmacy, who studies sex-based differences in immunity.
Other UNM researchers collaborating in the study included faculty, fellows and graduate students from the Departments of Emergency Medicine, Pathology, Cell Biology & Physiology and Internal Medicine in the UNM School of Medicine.