Vitamin to the rescue in fight with ‘superbugs’

Published on August 29, 2012 at 5:15 PM · No Comments

By Helen Albert, Senior medwireNews Reporter

High doses of vitamin B3 may help fight against so called "superbugs" such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), show study results.

In a trial carried out in mice, and on human and murine blood cells, Pierre Kyme (Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, California, USA) and colleagues found that high doses of nicotinamide (vitamin B3) stimulated expression of the CCAAT/enhancer-binding protein ε gene (C/EBPε), thus improving the ability of white blood cells to combat S. aureus infections.

"It's critical that we find novel antimicrobial approaches to treat infection and not rely so heavily on antibiotics," said co-author of the Journal of Clinical Investigation study George Liu, also from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, in a press statement.

"That's why this discovery is so exciting. Our research indicates this common vitamin is potentially effective in fighting off and protecting against one of today's most concerning public health threats."

Kyme and colleagues found that nicotinamide, given at therapeutic or high dose levels (above those likely to be consumed as part of a normal diet or in most supplements), reduced levels of S. aureus infection by up to 1000 times in mice infected with the bacterium, and in murine and human blood samples.

Of note, no effects of nicotinamide were seen in C/EBPε-deficient mice or in mice with very low levels of neutrophils.

"This is potentially very significant, although we still need to do human studies," said co-author Adrian Gombart from Oregon State University in Corvallis, USA.

"Antibiotics are wonder drugs, but they face increasing problems with resistance by various types of bacteria, especially Staphylococcus aureus. This could give us a new way to treat staph infections that can be deadly, and might be used in combination with current antibiotics," he added.

The researchers hope that their findings will help fight other antibiotic-resistant microbes. "There's more research to be done, but we believe that vitamin B3, and other compounds that are able to increase the activity of this particular gene, have the potential to be effective against other antibiotic-resistant bacteria in addition to strains of staph," said fellow Cedars-Sinai researcher and co-author Philip Koeffler.

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