A team of University of Iowa researchers has created a noninvasive chemical probe that detects Staphylococcus aureus in the body. The probe ingeniously takes advantage of staph’s propensity to slash and tear at DNA, activating a light-emitting molecule in the synthetic probe that tells doctors, using near-infrared imaging techniques, that bacteria is present. The team’s study was published Feb. 2 in Nature Medicine.
Each year, half a million people are infected by S. aureus bacteria, which is common in hospitals and also found in the general public. The bacteria causes skin infections, can spread to the joints and bones, and can be fatal, particularly to those with weakened immune systems.